I’m standing at my kitchen window, my personal “prayer closet,” asking God to teach me to forgive. I have many times asked Him to help me forgive grievances. This time I’m going through hurts that hurt, and this prayer comes out of my hurting heart, “Lord, teach me to forgive.”
One time the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” They had seen the example of His prayer life and wanted the same prayer relationship that He had with His Father.
This is the first time I can remember asking God to teach me to forgive. As I say the prayer, I hear in my heart the answer, “How can I teach you, without hurts to forgive.” Any teaching requires practice.
The first thing children learn in school is the alphabet. How do they lean it? By practicing! Then they learn the numbers. And they practice math problems! And I’m sure we all remember how we learned the multiplication table. With lots of practice!
My granddaughter Brianna asks me to teach her to knit, to crochet, to sew, to do cross stitching. She is very ambitious in her plans for all this learning but she is not very much interested in the “practicing” part. I tell her over and over, “It takes a lot of practice!” She wants to master these arts at once.
I can hear my Father in Heaven talking to me about the forgiveness issue. How am I going to learn forgiveness? Will I learn it by writing 2000 times: I will forgive?
THE ONLY WAY TO LEARN FORGIVENESS
There is only one way to learn forgiveness, and that is through people. At present, I have several opportunities to learn. People that I love have hurt me. You probably have experienced the same thing; the more you love, the more you hurt.
- How about a child that you love, screaming in your face that she hates you?
- How about a friend that you loved and cherished telling you that her love for you is dead?
- How about having someone you have helped unconditionally turn around and show you disdain?
These are examples of things that hurt. If you want to learn to forgive, these are perfect “practice” materials.
I chose Fragrance as my word for 2016. I thought it would be a personal matter between me and God. Then the Lord spoke to my heart that I should share it. It’s now become a project of the complete alphabet in Spanish with words pertaining to spreading the aroma of Christ. There is going to be a lesson for each word, with visuals, PowerPoints and activities. All of this is becoming a matter of practice, because how can I write about love if I don’t practice it? So, God has sent me “material” to practice on. Guess what this practice material is? Yes! People!
When writing about kindness, that’s what I’ve had to practice. All my life I have made it a point to be kind, but now God is reinforcing it with “fresh” practice material!
Forgiveness is the word that is coming up when I get to the P in the Fragrance alphabet.
P is for perdón (forgiveness in Spanish). God has brought it up for me to practice long before I get to it on my alphabet list. My next word to tackle is Compassion. Sandwiched between Kindness and Compassion I need to put Forgiveness.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
You cannot be kind and compassionate without a heart full of forgiveness. And for me to write about these things, I have to do a lot of practice. I don’t want my writings to be just words on paper or on a computer screen. I want my words to hit as darts, full of the love and compassion of the Holy Spirit.
I was not even two years old when my mom used to play this little game with me. She would say different words and I would repeat them. At certain intervals she’d insert the word “förlåt”, which means “forgive me” or “I’m sorry”, but I would refuse to say it! As I’ve been told by my parents, I had a very hard time asking for forgiveness, and I suppose even forgiving. Many times it’s been a struggle for me.
I’ve had many opportunities to practice what I call “the art of forgiveness.” One time when we came home from the mission field and my late husband was suffering from a deep depression, we had hoped the pastor would counsel Bengt and give him the encouragement he needed; but it did not happen, and we were very disappointed. The board members didn’t understand our vision for the future and they kind of marked us as damaged goods.
My struggle at that time was so deep that I didn’t want anything to do with God’s children, but in no way could I leave the Lord. With bleeding heart and tear-filled eyes I would tell Jesus that I could never stop loving Him, because He had done me no harm. It was his children that had hurt me. My biggest pain was that I thought my life as a missionary was over. But in due time God would open amazing doors, such as we never could have dreamed.
A “TRIAL BY FIRE” IN THE SCHOOL OF FORGIVENESS
After some time I was invited to be the main speaker at a children’s event at the church. It was a “trial by fire” in the school of forgiveness. I’m so glad God gave me the grace to accept the invitation, and what greater subject to speak about than forgiveness? I started my presentation singing a song about forgiveness. Waves of soothing balm washed over me as I sang, a song about the most wonderful word: forgiveness.
The children I sang for had not hurt me, neither had their parents. It was the board members that had misunderstood us, and I don’t remember if they even were present at the event. That wasn’t important! What mattered is that I publicly offered forgiveness. It hurt deeply to sing each word of the song, but there was wonderful healing power in doing it.
In years to come I learned many lessons in forgiveness. It was always hard for me to ask for it or to offer it. But anytime I could not bring myself to forgive, the Lord was my help. He’s heard many a prayer from me, “Father, I cannot do this. I put the matter in your hands and ask you to forgive through me.” And He has never failed me.
Now my prayer is, “Lord, teach me to forgive.” Should I not have learned it in the course of more than six decades? Forgiveness is something we continually have to practice and learn!
If Mom were here today and could play her little word game with me, she’d have a reason to be proud. Loud and clear I would say the word “förlåt”, because life has taught me that nothing brings such peace and joy to the heart as forgiving and forgetting the grievances.
THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF FORGIVENESS
Jesus gave the ultimate example of forgiveness on the Cross, when he asked the Father to forgive those that were brutally hanging him on the tree.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we should follow in his footsteps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When people hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats (see 1 Peter 2:21-23).
He taught us to pray: “Father forgive us… as we forgive.”
Here are some serious words to consider:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
FORGIVING AS GOD FORGIVES US
We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note — torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one (Henry Ward Beecher).
I’ve had many situations that needed forgiving during my life. One time a friend gave me this timely advice: “Whatever happens, don’t get bitter.” You’ve probably heard it said that instead of getting bitter we should get better. I’m glad to say that with God’s help I didn’t get bitter.
The Apostle Paul advises us that we should “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15).
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
There are many hurts in my life that I would like to be healed. Someone said that the best part of having a fight was the making up afterwards. Sometimes one of the parties involved doesn’t want to make up. Then the broken relationship is in jeopardy.
These are some words I heard a preacher say:
Betrayal is what other people put on you.
Bitterness is what you put on yourself.
We can’t get away from hurts. When we least expect it somebody is going to hurt us. We can put the salve of God’s love on the wound and move on in the name of Jesus!
My prayer by the kitchen window is deep and cutting. As I ask God to teach me to forgive, I have to be willing to put into practice the lessons He gives me.
Will you join me in asking God to teach us one of the most valuable lessons in life, to forgive even the most hurtful hurts?