God’s forgiveness is a concept that I simultaneously love and hate. I want God to forgive my sins, mistakes, and shortcomings; I count on grace. However, the fact that God offers forgiveness freely to those who have harmed me drives me nuts.
I was once in a toxic romantic relationship and his words cut like knives and left wounds that bled for years to come. His verbal assaults left scars and battered my heart and self-esteem. I needed out of the relationship as it suffocated and stifled my personality and voice.
After finally breaking free, my inner voice and critic told me constantly that I had to forgive him. My inner dialogue argued that Good Christians forgave, and God required me to reconcile. My self-preservation instincts told me to grab onto anger and never let go. Bitterness and hatred for my former love and for my God swirled in my heart and slowly wrapped me in chains of dissatisfaction and a thirst for retribution.
Did I have a right and a reason to be angry and want justice? Of course. I believe that we as humans should be righteously angry at the same things that make God angry, and verbal abuse certainly angers God. Realizing that forgiveness was necessary was not an easy pill to swallow. I wanted God to make them pay and withhold forgiveness. If I had to live with the consequences of his words, then so did he, I rationalized. Apparently, I can hold a grudge that includes eternal damnation.
Eventually, the emotions and anger poisoned me, and I began to shut out those around me and damage my healthy relationships. My soul desired to be free of the bitterness, which was actually pain disguised as rage. So, I did the only thing I could think to do. I prayed for him. I prayed for God to break his heart and change it so that other people would never suffer from the vicious words of his mouth. I prayed for God to show him the error of his ways.
I thought of Jesus hanging on the cross literally dying at the hands of those whom should love him. People that only a week prior lauded him were now hurling insults and ridicule. This sounds like verbal assault to me. On that cross Jesus looked up to the heavens and pleaded for the hearts and souls of those who betrayed him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus died because we are all sinful.
I realized that forgiveness was the only way to truly heal. It was a slow process and a repetitive process as I would decide to no longer extend forgiveness. In time God healed my broken heart and letting go of my anger was a result.
I forgave a person that hurt me for my sake, not his. His forgiveness between him and his Creator is not my concern, as that is between them. Let me be very clear. I forgave, but I would never, ever, put myself in a position to ever see him again. I can let my residual anger go and move on, but I have not and will not ever speak to him again.
God called me to forgive and gave me the strength to do so, but God has never asked me to make myself vulnerable to his attacks ever again.
Each one of us has been in a toxic relationship of some kind. Whether it is a family member, friend, romantic partner, co-worker, dog walker, whatever. Toxic people exist and find their way into our lives sometimes or they already exist in our lives. God does NOT want us to be perpetually wounded and caught in dysfunctional relationships. God may want us to forgive, but not become senseless martyrs.
Reconciliation does not always mean that we have to interact with our perpetrator again. When someone crucifies us, and we are resurrected by God, sometimes in cases of verbal abuse or toxicity, God sets us free from that relationship. Jesus came to set the captives free, and captivity can come in a myriad of forms, including interpersonal relationships.
I continue to pray for those who trespass against me and ask God to be merciful unto them. Why? Because if God is not softening hardened hearts and transforming damaged and violent souls, then the world will always be broken and never look like the kingdom of God. I pray for my enemies not simply for the sake of the bitterness infecting my soul, but so that their brokenness doesn’t continue to infect the world. I hate that God forgives those who hurt me freely, but I always love it, because it will redeem and save when nothing else can.