Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Most Difficult Gift of All: Forgiveness

Confession: I, Raegan King, queen of the New Year's Resolutions, fell off the wagon... I dropped the ball on almost every single one of the things I resolved to do or not do. The only still surviving resolution is "No pop..." and to be honest, that was a really easy one for me. I can quit drinking pop about as easy as I can quit flossing my teeth, because to be completely honest I wasn't very big on either of those two things to start with.

But here's the thing - when we went on the ski trip, I neglected my daily Bible reading and then when I came home with a stupid blood clot, every time I cracked the Book I was out for the count... I couldn't hold my eyes open! So I took a "break" and now I'm about a month behind and instead of getting on the ball and knocking out some serious reading, I think "Geeze, it'd take forever to catch up... Welp, maybe next year!" And that is so, so wrong.

HOWEVER, my God is an awesome God. Even when I neglect Him completely, He still actively pursues my heart. He never gets frustrated with me and says "Welp, maybe next year." He never considers me a lost cause even though I make the same mistakes over and over and over. He loves me so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice... He sent HIS SON to die FOR ME.

Think about that for just a second... I know, without a shadow of a doubt that my parents would run in front of a bus for me, would take a bullet for me, would literally give their life to save mine without a split-second hesitation. But God gave HIS SON for me... ME: the person who can't give Him ten minutes of my day... and after giving His most precious gift, he forgave me for all the little things I manage to screw up and even for the big things that I completely mess up. The most amazing thing to me, is that not only did he forgive me, but after forgiving me he continued loving me.

And this is where I think it gets really cool... Even though I'm not doing my part, I've not been diligent in my daily Bible readings... God finds a way to continue to teach me, talk to me, and help me learn to be more like Him! With Easter right around the corner, I feel like the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is being played over and over everywhere I go... I hear it so many places - church, of course, but also on the radio station I listen to on my commute to work, the blogs that I read, and in discussions with my husband. And even though I know the story forwards and backwards, this year I'm hearing a different story... One thing stands out to me more than it has in the past, this year it's not the story of the lack of frustration by my wrongly accused King, or the cruelty of the abuse beaten into my Jesus, or even the miraculous uprising of my Savior... This year, I hear a story of forgiveness.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the quickest to forgive... I tend to be a grudge holder. I can't remember half the things I spent hours upon hours studying in law school, but don't think even for a second that I forgot about that one time, nine years ago, when I was in high school, what girl-who-will-remain-unnamed said about me. Isn't that awful?! What a waste of space in my brain... and even worse, what an ugly, sickness that's been living in my heart. I've always really liked the quote:

"Failing to forgive is like drinking poison
and expecting the other person to die."

It's something that I have to remind myself often, yet even this quote isn't really in line. I don't want to forgive someone out of personal guilt or because my failing to forgive is causing me harm. I want to forgive because God gave me the perfect example of forgiveness and I want my life to be an example to others of what God's love looks like. God's love looks like forgiveness - over and over and over. "It's a gift you give to others because it was the gift given to you."

 This year has been a different year for our family. There have been some really, really good things and their have been some really, really hard things. There has been a lot of adjusting to new norms. It has been overwhelmingly humbling to watch as our family has come together, helped each other, supported and encouraged each other and above all loved on each other constantly, regardless of the situation. Through even the most difficult times, we remain incredibly blessed.

Sometimes I think it's easiest to pull together in the middle of the storm, but then once the storm has passed and you see all the damage it's caused... that's the hard part. Where do you go from there? So many emotions - anger, sadness, hurt, disappointment. I was struggling with all of these things, trying to determine where I stood, how I would respond, what I should do. I am an action person... I think about the different options and then once my mind is made up, I'm ready to do something about it. But this time, I struggled with what was the right thing to do. I am so thankful that God spoke directly to my heart when my friend Aja from It's a Strange and Lovely Ride shared this blog post that she read on From the Nato's. The writer, Jami, was writing about trying to cope with her husband's affair... and while I, thankfully, cannot relate to that experience, her words were exactly what I needed to hear. She said this (the emphasis I added):

"you are just as jacked up as your husband. your heart is so dark. you betray Jesus everyday and he still loves you. he doesn't wait for you to do enough to pay for your sins, so he can finally take you back. no. you enjoy grace and mercy and unmerited forgiveness. every day. actually, every hour.

and now, you get to be a mirror of the Gospel to your spouse. because what can they do to make up for defiling you in such a way? nothing actually. nothing would ever be good enough. would it?

so instead of making them work for your forgiveness, you start with forgiveness. you make a decision. and you make a choice to absorb the cost of that forgiveness.

it's very costly, isn't it?
that's why it's a gift. like the gift Jesus gave to us when he absorbed our sins and said, no more. i'm paying for this. the cost is too great. i'll give my only son. expensive and extravagant.

and so when we forgive, we mirror christ's forgiveness. we pay the tab. we stop making our spouse pick up the check. we say, no more. you can't pay enough for this.

this is the Gospel lived out in a tangible way. you recognize the darkness of your own heart and see the need for Jesus to save you. and that gift that God gave you, you give to others because you are just as terrible. and i'm not going to lie, it is difficult and hard and grievous to walk these steps in front of you. but you can because Jesus did.

Jesus said, but God DEMONSTRATES his love for us in this;
while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us. (romans 5:8)

he started with forgiveness.
no one asked for it. no one earned it. no one deserves it.
now you get the honor of modeling that."

That's good stuff people. Did you read it? Read it again. I mean, wow. I've read it over ten times and every time I am just left in absolute awe.

And then this week, my dear friend Ki shared on her adorable blog, Faith Hope & Lovelies, a post about the first words of Christ before he was hung on the cross. Ki showed me the new side of the Easter story:

After all that the people had done to him, the first words Jesus said were

"Jesus said, 'Father forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.'"
Luke 23:34

Not, "Lord, take this pain from me," or why, or even a cry of pain. The first words of Christ are completely unselfish and filled with love.

"Father." Jesus begins with a prayer. Many times today, we begin prayers with God or Lord. Here, Jesus is speaking to his Dad, having a one-on-one conversation. This is the same opening to the Lord's Prayer, "Father, hallowed be your name," in Luke 11:2
"forgive them." He's been beaten, mocked, and tortured. The people chanted for His crucifixion for no wrongdoing. The Bible doesn't say He felt betrayed; He wasn't holding a grudge or thinking of Himself. He was asking for His Father to forgive the people.
"for they do not know what they are doing." Jesus asked forgiveness for other people who didn't even know what they were doing. Complete and total unselfishness. This speaks to the heart of true forgiveness.
I think of when others hurt my feelings. To this day, they probably do not know, but I've held onto it. Jesus is saying, forgive them anyways... 
Forgiveness is about letting go. Forgiving someone means letting go of the hurt, bitterness, and anger it has caused you, and not letting what has been done get to you. Forgiveness from my Father for my own sins means letting go of that sin, releasing it to God, turning from it and running after God.
Jesus' first words were a prayer to His Father; they are words not about Himself, but about others; they are words of forgiveness, even when the people didn't know what they were doing. L.O.V.E. This is the love Jesus has for us."

So there you go... I haven't even been to this year's Easter service yet, but I've already heard everything I needed to hear! And God gave it to me through my friends' blogs! So, so awesome.
I am a firm believer that God speaks to you when you listen... Sometimes He speaks directly to you when it's something that you alone need to hear, other times He allows you to be His messenger. This was something I needed to hear. After reading these two posts, I had no doubt how I was supposed to handle my fragile situation. I have the honor of being a mirror of the Gospel and I have the opportunity to show God's love to someone who doesn't know Him personally. Isn't it amazing how God can take a terrible situation and turn it into an amazing opportunity to make a difference?
Sometimes, when I start writing these posts, I'm not too sure where I'm going with them... Today's post was that way... I knew I needed to address forgiveness, but I didn't know how to approach the topic because I didn't know where my heart was on a particular personal issue. As I typed, God literally spelled it out for me. It felt like I was writing a letter to myself, telling myself what I needed to do. I am forever thankful that my God knows my heart and my desires and will lay out a plan so evident to me that I can literally read it directly off my computer screen. I hope these words have been encouraging to you.
Be Blessed!


  1. Thank you for posting this! Exactly what I needed to hear today (this year). I hold a grudge too. And it makes me envious and jealous and I tend to get hung up on the silliest of things. Learning to forgive and love, expecting nothing in return, is always so difficult for me. It's comforting to know I'm not alone in this and thank you for being so honest. We need more circles of friends that are open and honest with each. That's how we can be ministers to other and allow others to lean on us when they need to.

  2. Beautiful post. I went to Catholic school my whole life and up until my sophomore year, I thought prayer was just a personal conversation with God and going to church.

    I went on a retreat and they had a "prayer team." During the weekend the prayer team prayed for the students on the retreat, only the students didn't know we were there. The most powerful thing I got out of that was that what I knew as "prayer" was sooooo narrow.

    Our prayer team would read inspirational books, listen to hymns or other music, and then talk about how those were forms of prayer. It was actually pretty powerful to see that prayer is so much more than what I was taught in school. It is around us everyday, we just need to recognize it. Looks like you had your "prayer team" moment :).

  3. Beautiful post, Raegan! And what powerful words from Jami. Thanks for sharing!

  4. So interesting how the Lord works on our hearts--forgiveness is the topic I felt I am supposed to discuss during Thursday's small group. Many in our little group deal with forgiveness issues every day. I, too, have been thinking a lot about Jesus' words on the cross (just in case you've forgotten the next thing was take care of your mother!!!) :). One of the thieves on the cross asked for forgiveness--one didn't. For Jesus to give us this powerful last lesson from the cross and then to give it to us again through the words of the thief means this is really important--it is really his last instruction to us--with an illustration! You have given me much to work with for our devotion Thursday. I am continually amazed by your spiritual maturity and transparency and as always I am so proud to say you are loved by Mama

  5. I am in awe. It is beautiful how the Lord works. As if you couldn't tell, I too have "issues" with forgiveness. I love how you noted that even after forgiving, Jesus continues to love. And even when we mess up, He still speaks to our heart. I cannot fully comprehend this!
    Thanks for sharing the post "from the nato's." I should read it every day!

  6. one of the most beautiful posts i've ever read. i thoroughly enjoyed it. thank you :)