Love just keeps forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving…

by Craig on March 31, 2011

I directed a Vacation Bible School once.
I had new ideas, fresh plans, big visions.
I ran headlong into it.
But…

there was one influential older person that kept blocking things.

Frustration.

We were in the foyer of the church just after Sunday Service.

She in her power red dress,
and fancy earrings
and snazzy pumps.

She was standing on steps and looking down at me as she approached.

She stopped two steps above where I was standing. And without looking at me, but smiling at others as they went by – with the occasional nod, she said, “Craig, you remind me of wild stallion on a hill, running free. You don’t run with the herd – you stay ahead of it.”

I thought it was a breakthrough.

She obviously wasn’t looking at me because the words were hard to say.

Pride.

Then, putting her church program in front of her lips said continued,

“A stallion is useless until it’s captured, saddled, broken, and reined in.”

With that she closed her church program and headed across the room.

Anger.

I wanted to chalk it up to religious stodginess. She just didn’t understand the new. She was clinging to the old order was putting me in my place.

And maybe that was true.

But she turned out to be right. Not about a particular VBS – that was a smashing hit by the way – done my way. But I’ve never relied on others, never delegated, I’ve always been outside the circle and never in. I’ve been that way socially, professionally, and spiritually.

It’s always been safer that way.

But is isn’t the right way.

I’m learning this late. I’m learning this now.

I’m working on a dream.
I’m giving it everything I’ve got.

And I decided not to be  a wild stallion. I named the year “connect”. I’m learning not to be all alone.

And there is a person, a Godsend, jumping on board and propelling me forward. Fully committed, reliable, and steady.

This person failed me a while back. After I grew to depend on them.

Not good when you’re trying to learn to lean on others.

I forgave.

Then again. I forgave – it’s what love does right?

And again – and I forgave.

Oh, and one more time.

And I forgave.

Love forgives.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:23,24

If there was an apostle who had a hard time with forgiveness it was probably Peter. By all accounts he was headstrong. When Jesus was captured it was Peter who drew a sword. It’s easy to see him asking Jesus, with attitude, “Forgive even him? I’ve already done it seven darned times. No more. How many times do you expect me to forgive?”

In his defense, Peter had a point. Forgiving doesn’t mean allowing license for someone to continue to hurt in the present.

But the past isn’t here anymore, so why bother so much with what doesn’t even exist. Today I will not let the past ruin my present.

If it’s one thing we shouldn’t keep a list of, but do, its hurts.

So I ask myself a couple of questions. In what way has this person failed me the most?

That was easy.

What is the most recent failure? Also easy.

Now I’ll just select a, or b, or both – and let it go.

But I don’t want to.

It doesn’t matter.

I may not rely so much on this person. That’s fine. But this bitterness – that has to go.

And once I let it go it might return.

I know I won’t be perfect about it.

But you know what. I will be for this one day.

Oh, and the “church lady”? I forgive her too.

In God’s love

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora March 31, 2011 at 10:44 am

I used to think I was the only person who had a problem with a “church lady.” I’m beginning to think that everyone fits into the “most-likely-to-have-one” category. To make it worse, even after it’s all gone, over with, done, I’ve moved away, in a new church in a new place, etc., etc., it STILL comes up. I don’t know if I’ve reached the 70 x7 as I lost count. You’d think I’d be getting pretty good at it, wouldn’t you? Why is it we want the past to matter so much??? I loved what you said about the past not existing anymore so why bother with it?!
I need that big eraser in your picture. In fact, I may just get one, write “forgiveness” on it, and have sit out where I can see it day in and day out. Thank you, Craig! And by the way, sorry about the spinach thing. Didn’t mean to cause you to have a “Yuk!” day!

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I have so many weak areas of faith – forgiveness isn’t one.I can’t keep a grudge if I try. There are a few people that are real challenges though. But look – as proof – I forgive you for the spinach. (◠‿◠) God Bless you Cora.

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brie. March 31, 2011 at 10:58 am

community is probably the most important thing. it’s ‘easier’ to stand on the outside, but then it’s actually harder in the end isn’t it? praying for you as you learn about ‘connection’…

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Oh Brie, I had this so wrong for so many years. I think it started with hearing it’s all about “a personal relationship with Christ” – I got stuck there and neglected community. You are so right – connecting is hard – roses and thorns. Thank you very much for reading and taking the time to comment God Bless.

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A. March 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

I have been accused of being a ‘free spirit’ which is probably a cousin to ‘wild stallion’. There are pros and cons, but eventually the pros really are better and sometimes more mature…and that doesn’t mean I am all the way there yet. I also don’t think it means the free spirit or wild stallion spirit should be completely obliterated. There is some value there, too.

Love the forgiveness teaching! Thank you! I am really grappling with this one. Trying to put a face on what it will look like after forgiveness. It is said that forgiveness is one thing and reconciliation is another. It is the reconciliation part that is most challenging for me-more complicated. Especially when the one or ones being forgiven aren’t asking for it and don’t think they need it. Especially when my forgiveness-leading-to-moves-toward-reconciliation could be interpreted as ‘they are right, after all’. Bunnies and such.

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I think an important thing to remember is that if someone repeatedly slaps us in the face, despite forgiveness – well – there is more than one “warren” of bunnies (Watership Down geek) (◠‿◠) God Bless A.

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Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home March 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm

A. I have been grappling with this one too. You hit the nail on the head. That is what makes it so difficult. Kindred Spirits we are, A. :-)

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Dawn March 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm

The “forgive” picture “says” it all for me. It will stay with me a long time.

AND your answer to Cora in the comment section above finally answers for me how you can be so nice coming out of the home situation you had.

Thanks for praying for my mother-in-law…
and me,
Dawn

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Hmmm. It is true – I’ve actually tried to keep grudges before – and been frustrated by the fact that I can’t. I’ll give God all the credit for that. Although I am considering walking away from “that man” – there does come a time when continual forgiveness only fuels the fire. Is it sometimes best to forgive – then walk away?

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kimberley March 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

craig – i first wanted to thank you for the comments you have left on my blog during “multitude mondays”…they are always so encouraging.

and i can’t help but smile at the timing of reading this post – as i struggle with the forgiving of my own “church lady”. thank you for sharing this, for pointing us back to Him even in painful circumstances.

i’ve been blessed through my visit here. thank you.

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Thank YOU Kimberly. I’m glad the timing was right – Godspeed with your “church lady”. I was blessed by having you here. Grace and peace.

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Alida March 31, 2011 at 6:28 pm

We have had a doozy of time on the mission field with more than one church lady during our time in Russia and even here in Belize. I love your thoughts on forgiveness… you always inspire me.

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I write words – you are out on the mission field – YOU inspire me!! And although the “church lady” could have been nicer – she turned out to be right. I needed to be reined in – I had way too much pride at the time. Things have changed. Thank you Alida. God bless you.

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Mama Zen March 31, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Wonderful!

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Thank you – brevity is not one of my strong suits – i.e. I could have just said thank you – but no I have to say thank you for reading me – and being nice enough to comment – and God Bless you and yours and the gecko. (◠‿◠)

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Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home March 31, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Wow. I feel like you are writing my current story. In more ways than one. Can’t go into it here but … wow. Thank you for writing on Forgiveness.

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Craig March 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Thank YOU Sharon. Godspeed in your “current story” – Grace and peace.

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Michelle March 31, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Today I will not let the past ruin my present. – I like that line. Must remember it.

I have a comic on my fridge in which the punch line is “Let it go. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Helps keep me grounded. I usually see it (there is a lot of stuff on my fridge) when I need to .

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Craig April 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

You cartoon is funny – AND true. I bet the “seeing” of it is timed curiously. God bless you Michelle.

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Debra March 31, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Sometimes I think those “church ladies” are the hardest to forgive :)
Every time I’m reminded of forgiveness (as in your wonderful message here) the parable of the unmerciful servant looms large… the one who owes ten thousand talents and is forgiven by his master… but this same servant turns and refuses to forgive his fellow servant who only owes him a hundred denarii…
The finale of this parable says it all: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
As I meditate on this I realize that the key here is forgive “from the heart.” I can forgive by an act of the will, but forgiveness “from the heart” requires a revelation of God’s mercy toward me.

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Craig April 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

Funny – this post was really written about the person who failed me – repeatedly – and how it really got to me – just as I’ve been “connecting”.

The church lady seems to have everyone’s attention – must be the red dress.

And Amen Debra – so insightful – forgiveness from the heart is a different animal than just “I forgive you”. God Bless you Debra – and thank you.

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Amy Nabors April 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

The hardest part for me is to continue forgiving when the person hurts again and again. I struggle to show love when the person doesn’t see a need to change.

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Craig April 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I’m with you Amy – there comes a time when we can still forgive – let it go – but then also walk away. Our Lord said to turn the cheek – he never said to keep forgiving – then go back for more abuse – and then have that forgiveness become kind of an enabler – depending on the situation – forgiving – then defending or walking away is biblical.

God doesn’t forgive us unless we repent. But then he knows stuff we don’t. But still – Our Lord was never a doormat – until he voluntarily became one on the Cross.

God bless you Amy – all of that to say – I agree.

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Celia April 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks for this – as I am looking for ways to encourage students in China to think about forgiveness, and know that it will be a personal walk (yet again) as well.

Sometimes the past is not here anymore so forget about it, sometimes the past still has hooks into my present, it’s still affecting my ‘now’. Forgiveness and God’s healing are the best ways to release those hooks – in my experience :-p some things sure take longer than others… ?onion layers? it’s definitely a process!

Does there have to be reconciliation? I see the person I have most challenges with, (whom I try to live towards with an attitude of forgiveness as God n I work to make it real and complete), as toxic to my life. Nearly any contact has a big negative effect on me, so I choose to have as little as possible to do with them. Why keep hurting myself? this process still has a way to go it seems.

As a song says, it’s not just about getting to the other side of the mountain, it’s about the climb.

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Craig April 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

Delia – about ways to encourage forgiveness fir students in China – I know that’s a truly hard thing. Our culture understands concepts of sin, and God, and heaven and hell – so when we talk to people in Western society the there is a foundation. But in China, the society doesn’t think in terms of Corinthians love, or God, or life after this one, or sin – and thereby, I guess, forgiveness.

I guess I can only say that the Jewish culture of Jesus had lots of groundwork lain – and on the whole, rejected the Messiah. But the Romans who weren’t much into the one God thing, nor into love freely given, nor hell, nor sacrifice – and Crucified God 300 years later the Empire was Christian. But what is impossible for us is possible by the Spirit. Godspeed in your efforts.

About reconciliation and how long one should stick with toxic people before g=forgiving and moving on – I’m struggling with that myself – and a Father who is all kinds of toxic – and I’ve forgiven and reached out for decades – and I think I’m finally throwing in the towel – forgiving – but allowing him to cut ties. If things are complicated by marriage – or kids – or dependence – the decision is much more complicated. But free of those considerations or others that I haven’t covered – I think it is biblical to forgive – but simply walk away after the person has shown perpetual unrepentance for the evil they generate. I thought a lot about your question before answering – and prayed – hope this helps. God Bless and Keep you – and thank you for reading – hope to hear from you again soon.

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Celia April 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

Craig – thanks for your thoughtful reply. Much appreciated. I’m going to keep thinking on this and will add more thoughts as time goes on and I continue to process this.

More thoughts under consideration: while forgiveness is a choice, an attitude and heart change by God, reconciliation sure is another ballgame, for me anyway. One way I look at it is, if someone kept physically hurting me, while forgiving them, I would take steps to stop this from continuing. So why is it any different if someone is emotionally etc toxic to me? (for me, it’s my mother – and I’m 42 at present). Also, I agree that special circumstances need special solutions, understanding but in a general relationship….?

What holes can you see in that idea of having space from a relationship that continues to damage you, while still keeping your heart open to a healthier relationship one day, if ever possible? Perhaps we should only keep actively in relationship with our person if God so directs, otherwise it may be time to ‘be still and know that I am God’, to wait, to ‘seek first His Kingdom and then all these things will be added…’?? or is this just a good way to rationalize my ideas haha!?

I like the way you bring the focus back to Love – Him – all we need. It says it all.

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Craig April 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

In a general relationship – I guess the first question is have I forgiven the 70×7 times (meaning gobs) – then is the person unrepentant – then I think forgiving but walking away is fine. I’m sure there are others with different opinions – but they’d have to prove it to me from Scripture – and not just an isolated verse of Scripture.

And I think the closer the relationship is – the more the emphasis on the 70×7 and the less the emphasis on forgiving but walking away. Psychologists would favor the walking away too soon – others might stay too long. I see th truth as being a balance.

Hope this helps – and amen it all comes back to Corinthians love. God Bless you Celia – God Bless.

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