If love covers a multitude of sins, then forgiveness is the fabric of that sheet.
A friend of mine has a large family, with about ten children. A huge family by today’s norms! And at this point in time, he and his wife are accumulating a fair number of grandchildren. Some years ago this couple had an experience with their oldest, a son and a truly great guy, that serves as an illustration of how to work out what I call the “post-forgiveness” process.
When their son was nearing the end of high school, his girlfriend became pregnant. They were with child. I am sure there was embarrassment. I am sure there was concern. I am sure the teens were sorry. I am sure they were bewildered. I am equally sure that the parents experienced a rush of mixed emotions as well, in terms of how others may perceive their children, or perceive them as parents. There must have been disappointment, confusion – possibly even a tantrum outburst? Those would all be quite natural. Yet, forgiveness for what had occurred never seemed to be in question. And really, forgiveness is always the easy part. It sets free everyone involved, and who doesn’t want to do that? Who doesn’t want to break bonds that enslave, and smash shackles that hold back?
You see, the real problem with forgiveness is that it fails to bring closure. Forgiveness is not like a present that one simply drops off at a party while passing through. Rather, forgiveness ushers people onto a path of healing and responsible behavior. It dispels emotion. It slays drama. Again, it sets everyone free. If love covers a multitude of sins, then forgiveness is the fabric of that sheet.
Forgiveness isn’t an end, its a beginning. Which must be why people may struggle with it. Most folks would like forgiveness to be a panacea, as if it could obliterate poor choices and their consequences. Fortunately or unfortunately, forgiveness never negates the after effects of whatever created demand for compassion. Take for example that young, expecting couple. The challenge was to figure out just what would follow on the heels of everyone accepting the reality of the situation. The two teens, along with their parents, met to deal with the obvious issue of marriage (certainly a time in need of cool heads). Forgiveness that preceded that discussion merely planted all involved at the trailhead of how to manage, responsibly and with love, the ramifications of this life change.
In the end the two never married. They had a moment of lust, which is no good as a basis for a strong marriage. They were not in love, and having a child could in no wise serve as a foundation for covenant relationship. The child would certainly need both mom and dad, but an obligatory marriage was considered counterproductive.
If you tend to be slow to offer forgiveness, it could be that “sorry” also doesn’t come easy. This situation could signal a tendency toward hardheartedness. There are many causes for such state (and perhaps none too few scars). No worries – just repent. Really. If you say it, you will become it. Turns out that our speaking of things can form and modify our attitudes, which seems to be some spiritual law.
Perhaps forgiving others is not so hard for you. What can be hard is dealing with all the hassles that accompany the act of forgiveness. Speaking from experience, the prospect of dealing with the fallout from the choices that others have made, and which have caught me in the undertow, can be fatiguing. But then, I have certainly appreciated the willingness of family and friends for accepting those same kinds of hassles when it is I who have been the cause for “undertow”.
Someone once told me that manhood is about being able to manage increasing amounts of responsibility in life. Alright then, forgiveness is easy, because it is an event that takes place in a moment of decision; all the real work is in the post-forgiveness segment. That is exactly where the growth opportunities are – at the trailheads of managed godliness. I like it when Paul writes in Ephesians about “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” No denying the importance of quality footwear for the long haul.