It’s lent. For many of us in the Christian faith it is a time of deep reflection that mimics the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before starting the most famous chapter of his life. Jesus fasted, prayed and was tempted by the devil. He emerged strengthened and renewed. As Christians, this renewal is what we hope to accomplish during the 40 days of lent. We look forward to surfacing on Easter morning changed for the better.
My church’s theme for Lent is “Forgive and Be Set Free”. I decided to search the tags on my blogs over the last four years and see how many times I had written about forgiveness.
Never. Not even once. I have never pondered, explored, researched or deliberated on the subject of forgiveness. I decided to look it up, and try to find the definition and etymology of the word “forgiveness”. The definition is bland:
Definition: Forgiveness (noun) fər gìv nəss 1. Act of pardoning somebody for a mistake or wrongdoing. 2. The tendency to forgive offenses readily and easily.
And the etymology is almost non-existent. Every etymological source I could dig up gave a Nordic reference to the word “give”. Couple that with the prefix “for” and it infers the opposite; to send back, remit or reject. In other words….give back. Almost every attempt to Google the definition or etymology of this word brought up religious references even though I was searching for linguistic confirmation.
Why is this so sketchy? Why have I not pondered forgiveness? What is it about this word that so convoluted and vague? For me, forgiveness is a thorny subject and I know in my heart why I don’t write or consider the subject. It’s hard. It’s actually beyond hard for me to forgive. Sometimes it feels impossible; as if the wrongs made against me were so ridiculously hurtful, forgiveness would be unattainable.
I am far from cornering the market on pain and sorrow. I know the transgressions done against me, although painful, are not uncommon. But forgiving those offenses is a different matter. That means having to bury it and somehow my brain seems to think keeping them around is doing me some good. Clearly it’s not. I am often amazed at how long I hold onto things that have hurt me. Not days, not years, but an entire lifetime. I’ll be happy to share them over and over again with each new incident of injure. “This is just like that time…..”, or “She’s just like that person that did this to me…..”, or “I’m never going to let my guard down when this happens again.” Are common phrases I tell myself to avoid forgiveness.
Why do I do that? I have often talked about “letting go and letting God” and my lack of forgiveness feels hypocritical. If there was any time forgiveness is appropriate, it is NOW…..during lent; during this time of renewal. I could forgive and be set free if I choose to.
When I think about what it means to forgive and create my own definition of it, it’s a very reflective process. Realizing that of all of those people and incidents from the past that may have hurt me are over, the only person hanging onto the harsh words and actions is me. Everyone else has moved on. Forgiveness goes so much farther than the dictionary definition of pardoning someone. It’s more about forgiving myself. It’s allowing me to say “It’s over” and remove that hurt from my heart so God’s love can fill the spot instead.
I pray that on Easter morning I will know what true resurrection feels like. I want to experience change, transformation, rebirth, by being washed in forgiveness and being able to forgive. This will be my Alleluia this Easter. I hope that it is yours too.