Forgiveness is one of those words I find somewhat mysterious and incomprehensible. It is very elusive when I want to pin it to myself like a badge when I need its honor; yet neither can I easily buffet it away when I want to ignore its convicting implications. Like a fly at a picnic, it hovers tantalizingly out of reach, yet close enough to remind me of its existence.
I have learnt a lot about forgiveness from other people. Some have reminded me of why I find it hard to forgive. Others remind me that I, too, need to be forgiven. Still others inspire me by the undeserved grace they offer, unconditionally, to those who have wronged and crushed and broken them; they forgive – even if the perpetrator cannot or will not see the need or the gift.
Yet even with the above insights bestowed upon me, I still find within myself the hard kernel of gracelessness, hurt, unforgiveness. Not exactly the happiest of self-discoveries.
I don’t like forgiving. It’s difficult and painful, and it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been wronged. I’d much rather that people didn’t offend or hurt me in the first place.
Couldn’t there be a limit to my forgiveness? Couldn’t I be selective as to how and upon whom I bestow it? It is so much effort to rally my weary conscience and go in search of that elusive, impractical, and often painful “word that is an action but should really be a lifestyle”.
I was still complaining to what I felt was the un-inclined ear of God, when I read with interest a discussion concerning this very issue between Jesus and his disciples – a brief conversation that I hadn’t really noticed in previous perusals of the book of Luke.
The Son of God had just informed his followers, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
Well, we all know just how easy this is.
The first time? I’m a good person, so… OK. The second time? Yeah, getting harder, but… alright. The third time? Now it’s really starting to hurt…
By this stage, I am feeling rather depressed about my forgiveness – or lack of.
The disciple’s fervent plea echoes the desperation and panic I feel at such an impossible mandate. They cried out, “Increase our faith!” Jesus’ reply was swift and unexpected. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”
Wait a minute. As small as a mustard seed? Yep, that’s about how big my forgiveness capacity is. Yet Jesus said… that’s OK?
A light ignited my dimmed brain, and suddenly I understood – really understood, deep within in my heart. It doesn’t matter so much how big my capacity is for forgiveness, but rather that I acquire the capacity at all.
A tiny mustard seed is a start. My mighty oak of forgiveness may be more wishful thinking than tangible fact, but even I know the truth: once a seed takes root it will only grow bigger.
So with my mustard seed in hand and my heart open like fertile soil, today is the day!
To plant that seed, no matter how small. To choose to forgive, every time. To, by God’s grace, grow and flourish in faith and in that beautiful word – forgiveness.
© Emma McGeorge