Actually, there’s no question about it. God commands us to forgive. Jesus’ entire raison d’etre is to be the ultimate expression of forgiveness. There is nothing on earth that anyone can do to us, compared to what was done to him, so when it comes to forgiveness, all of us are like kids repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet.” We wonder how we can forgive certain people of their sins against us. We back bite and quarrel because we don’t get our way. We slap on the victim label and let festering wounds of unforgiveness grow. Who am I kidding? I use the royal “We” when I really mean me.
I struggle with unforgiveness. I wonder how I can forgive the slings and arrows of outrageous people. I wake up at 3:07 in the morning unable to sleep because I let the sun go down on my anger. For the past few months God has been talking to me about trespasses and debts. As a child I memorized the Lord’s prayer and the 23 Psalm. I wasn’t a Christian then. I thought I was and I believed that if I didn’t recite both of them religiously every night repetitively like a mantra, then Satan would come and take me to hell. Not sure WHERE I got that theology, so I’m glad that was one of the first childish ways I put behind me. Zeal without knowledge gets you nowhere.
I’ve read two different translations of the Lord’s prayer. One version tells us to forgive the trespasses of others. The second translation says to forgive the debts of others. My friend and co-worker pointed out yesterday that another translations says to forgive the sins of others. No matter which way you translate the verse, it begins and ends with forgiveness. God has been talking to me about this and I’ve been struggling to apply it because whether it be trespasses or debts or sins, my first response is never forgiveness. Me? I get angry. I stay angry. Then I get angry about the fact that I’m angry because no GOOD Christian nurses their anger. I decommission myself from active and fruitful service to God when I let anger eat me up from the inside out. I’ve been praying about this… that God would help me see it for what it is early so that I can deal with it. The only thing about praying to forgive? God’s going to put people in your life who will piss you off so that you have to practice what he’s preaching.
So, who’s pissed me off now? A co-worker has been mashing my buttons for years now. In the past I’ve ranted and raved to God about this person. I have prayed that God move this person on to a different workplace. Somewhere they’d be happy and better suited…. and out of my hair. I keep a running list of people who I’ve prayed for God to move on. Mostly it’s people who haven’t been good for the students or don’t mesh well with the staff or people who mash my buttons. Sometimes God moves them on. Other times he shows me that he’s not moving them anywhere. It is my prayers for them that must change. In some cases, I am probably the only person praying for this person regarding the problems that concern me most. I never pray that bad things would happen to them. I pray for “God’s highest and best for them.” If that highest and best happens to be at a different company, then praise God and glory to Jesus.
I do not think God is going to move this co-worker. I’ve been praying for years and nothing has happened except for a growing list of trespasses. This coworker (who I will call “Pat” because it’s a nice generic unisex name. Remember, protect the identity of the not-so-innocent)… pushes my buttons on a regular basis. Yet Pat has never done anything outright sinful to me. Pat doesn’t owe me a debt either. Yet, Pat has a tendency to trespass all over my boundaries and smiles while doing it. Yesterday I wanted to smack Pat. Instead, I ran to a friend. I wanted to vent. I wanted to talk about Pat and give vent to all my anger under the guise of getting prayer. The person I wanted to vent to is Christian. She would have prayed for me, but God stopped me before I got to her door. The thing is –Pat does that.
Pat talks trash about many of our coworkers to me. At first, I used to join in and then I just started feeling slimed. God showed me just how wrong that is. Talking about people behind their backs profits nothing and nobody. It isn’t forgiving. It’s the evil, opposite of forgiveness. I could have pulled out the dirty laundry list of all of Pat’s alleged trespasses and it might have made me feel better in the moment, but it wouldn’t have helped me or Pat in the long term… and it wouldn’t have helped the friend that I dumped on either.
God is also telling me to put “childish ways behind me.” This is all so middle school. We get mad so we want to trash talk people. It’s in the same vein as that woman who followed me home last week. For whatever reason, she felt that I’d trespassed against her so she wanted to make me afraid. She was mad and in her anger she tailgated and followed me home. How juvenile was that? I prayed for her. I got other people to pray for her. I need to pray for Pat and not because I want to pray Pat off the island. A trespass is a trespass. I’m fairly certain that Pat is mad at me and took a few moments to rip into my character to somebody else willing to listen. IF I do the same thing, then I’m no better than Pat.
So that’s why I’m awake at 4:07 am. God wouldn’t let me sleep. Sure, I’d let the sun go down on my anger, but he’s going to have the Son come up on it before dawn. I forgive Pat. Talking to Pat isn’t going to accomplish anything. I’ve tried and only got angry when my words fell on deaf ears. God has told me “Don’t cast your pearls to pigs.” Talking about Pat to co-workers would be wrong. It colors they way that they see Pat and it’s not fair to them. I used to do this. Now I’m putting that childish way behind me. God has convicted me that it’s wrong and that, in this, it is I who needs to be forgiven.
So after I prayed I tried to go back to bed. Nothing. I couldn’t sleep. I’ve got heart palpitations along with the high blood pressure. Under stress I can actually hear and feel my heart beating through the left wall of my chest. It’s a freaky, creepy feeling. It’ll go away if I take nitroglycerine, but I don’t like the headache that goes along with taking that tiny pill, so I try to avoid it. That’s why I turned on the light at 3:30 and started blogging. I’d talked to God. I’d prayed about it. I even realized that I needed to talk to my boss and ask him to pray with me about Pat. I was certain God would let me go back to sleep. Unfortunately, the tell-tale beating of my heart was so loud in my chest that sleep was out of the question.
I knew I had to blog because somewhere, out there… somebody else has a Pat with whom they are pissed off. I don’t know what your Pat did. Maybe it was a trespass. Maybe it’s a debt owed. Does it really matter? Your Pat may not even know that you are mad, or maybe he or she does know and doesn’t care. Again I say, “Does it matter?” I have yet to figure out what forgiveness really looks or feels like. I know it doesn’t mean that I fake like I like Pat and pretend nothing’s wrong, so I have to believe that God will eventually show me how to really forgive from the heart. For now, I am going to take the nitro and get back into bed. I have an hour before I have to get up for work. My students need well rested me. Not tired and cranky me. I end up being short tempered and snappy and it never ends well. If I’m not careful, I’ll have to be asking all of their forgiveness by days end.