I’ve written a lot about bitterness. I’m sure some of you remember that being an issue for me. If not, just check out the previous post. So, closely following that topic is this idea of forgiveness. *cue sigh of relief that I’m not making y’all listen to another tangent on bitterness. *In my creative writing workshop, my teacher encouraged us to research the things we’re interested in. Apparently it’s good to write about things you’re interested in and also to know a little bit of legitimate information about the topic. For some people, that might be World War II or Paris in the ‘20s or apartheid, you know, something cool.
Me? I researched forgiveness. Which actually turned out to be a good idea. Like any good scholar (or anyone with writer’s block), I started by looking up the etymology of it, and this is what I found:
Forgive (v.) Old English forgiefan “give, grant, allow; forgive,” also “to give up” and “to give in marriage;” from for- “completely” and -giefan “give.” (Definition from etymonline.com)Completely Give.
It also defined our modern sense of forgiveness as ‘to give up the desire or power to punish’ which is still a really noble, difficult, Gospel-oriented thing. It talks of someone being forgiven a debt they can’t pay. This was the only definition I had ever heard, and it is still a good one.
It also says to me that we’ve lost a lot of the essence of forgiveness by regarding this as the only definition.
The root of our word forgiven, ‘forgiefan’ also meant to give in marriage. I mean hey, I can decide I don’t want to punch somebody in the face anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I would be willing to let my child marry into their family. I’ll usually only give so much forgiveness, I don’t completely give it.Now, specifically in light of the Gospel, let’s look at what that means. Here’s the story- God loved us and made us, we loved Him back for a while, then got distracted. God kept sending messengers, trying to lead us back to Him, and we added Him back onto our list of “Things to Worship” for a bit. Finally, He sent Jesus, His own Son, to lead us back, to love us, to take the punishment we deserved. Sure, He gave up His power to punish us, but He also gave Jesus in marriage to us. That’s why the Church is called The Bride.
I don’t know who you need to forgive or for what. I don’t know how they’ve wronged you or how long it’s been going on. But, odds are you need to talk it out. Forgiveness is a two-way street. I’ve been trying to make it a one-way street for a long time where I do all the right things, I talk myself up to it, I act better, do better, try harder, and it hasn’t worked for me at all. In fact, it made me even angrier. I had to apologize. I had to forgive.It may feel too soon, your wounds may still feel raw, you might not feel that you can keep yourself from attacking them like a rabid weasel. Let me tell you, you can. With a lot of humility and a lot prayer, you can. But it will require you to completely give.