“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times but, I tell you seventy times seven!’” —Matthew 18:21-22.
Today on a retreat I encountered a woman with so much anger it was difficult to be around her. Her body language and her speech cried out through tiny holes in a thick invisible wall surrounding her. These leaks told of a tremendous pain caused by her being abandoned in the past. Almost every conversation we had with her returned to her terrible suffering after a broken relationship fifteen years earlier. The person who hurt her was no longer in her life, but was still profoundly wounding her.
She also was primed, looking for, expecting another chance to respond with resentment. One had to walk on eggshells around her for fear of saying something that might offend her. I got caught in that trap in a brief exchange, and then tried to ease the pain I had caused her—but to no avail. My amends went coolly rejected. She was unforgiving. It was so uncomfortable to be around her. It was difficult to love her, to see the Christ in her.
As I reflect on that encounter, I see that, but for the grace of God, my own woundedness could have left me stuck and rudderless in the same place she was in. Why has God allowed some of us to heal from our hurt relationships—but not this woman? I learned so much from her … so painfully. I concluded that until I can forgive someone and start anew, the person I am resenting is still harming me. I can grieve over the broken trust and our lost relationship; but unless I choose to go on with my life, I am paralyzed.
I saw in this woman an image of someone I do not want to be. I also learned from her how, in my own humanness, I can harm others even when I have the best of intentions. But I can also reverse the tables and understand how others are able to do the same to me.
I honestly believe that most people do not intend to cause harm to others. May I remember this weekend and this very wounded woman as I continue to pray that both of us can sincerely forgive.
I also remember how the prayer our God gave to us tells us that part of the condition of our being forgiven is our forgiving others. I intend to think often of this woman, and hope that she will be a reminder to me of what happens when I no longer forgive. May we both be changed.
Come and get a signed copy of the new book
Just in time for the holidays
A Spiritual Rx for Advent Christmas, and Epiphany
The Sequel to A Spiritual Rx for Lent and Easter
Both are $18
All Money from sale of the books goes either to Camp Mitchel Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas or Hurricane Relief in the Diocese of Central Gulf Coast
Seibert’s, 27 River Ridge Road, Little Rock, Arkansas 72227
10 to noon, Saturday September 14, 2019