I am mom to three girls. Three girls full of creativity, sass, and all of the feels. Our home is never short of tears and hurt feelings and in those moments we’ve made it a goal to teach our girls how to apologize. We ask our girls to go through two simple steps:
1. Tell the person you’ve hurt or offended, “I’m sorry for ___________ “
2. Ask the person you’ve hurt or offended “Do you forgive me?”
The child that was offended then has the role to forgive despite how they feel. The act of asking someone for his or her forgiveness is very vulnerable and sometimes scary but it’s essential to building a lasting relationship. There have been several times in my marriage where I’ve had to push aside my terrible attitude or get past my own pride and sincerely ask my husband for his forgiveness. The moment those words, “Do you forgive me?” come out of my mouth its as if time stands still for a second. It feels as if I’m hanging in mid air waiting for the rope to catch. In that moment I’m tearing down my walls of pride and all of my excuses and admitting my fault in the situation. Luckily, I’ve never had a doubt that within seconds my husband, who loves me, will forgive me. His answer is always, “Yes, I forgive you”. At that moment our relationship becomes a tiny bit stronger because we’ve done the work and surrendered ourselves to the way we’re called to live as part of God’s Kingdom.
To ask for forgiveness from someone who is not my husband is even scarier for me. Recently I felt the Holy Spirit gently bring a close friend to mind. Over the past year, through an odd combination of stressful circumstances in life, our relationship became strained and for a long time it broke me. This friend has a big piece of my heart. For over a month I’ve not been able to get this friend off my mind. Jesus gently spoke to me in my time with Him about contacting her and what I needed to say. I needed to ask for forgiveness. I needed to own my part in our strained relationship. I’ve learned that when God tells me to do something like this, no matter how scary, I need to do it. So I did. And it was terrifying. But when I hit send on my email I knew that no matter what her response was or if she didn’t respond at all, healing was happening. Jesus was working and my role was to be obedient and let Him work.
Several years ago my husband and I walked through a very dark season in our marriage. It was a season that called for a lot of forgiveness. For months I wrestled with how to forgive and how it felt to walk that out. I knew that despite my feelings I was to forgive but I couldn’t fully grasp how I would process it all in my day-to-day life. Though I didn’t feel like forgiving, I needed something to click in my mind and heart to help me act it out. While in counseling I began to learn that forgiving my spouse and even other individuals in my life was not something I needed to do for them, it was fully something I needed to do for my own heart.
The decision to forgive was how my Father would set me free. Free from bitterness and resentment. Free from depression and heartache. When I made the decision to forgive it wouldn’t be a one-time decision. I would have to decide to walk out my forgiveness every day. I would have to process through my pain and feelings, yes, but I would have to decide forgiveness was still the way. And it was. It was my path to healing. Through counseling and the whole process I was able to talk through this all with my husband and his transparency and vulnerability honestly made it easier to forgive him. But we don’t always get that do we?
Sometimes we have to forgive someone who isn’t remorseful. Or, we have to decide to forgive someone who may not even admit or realize they need forgiveness. Those situations are very difficult. But we must remember, the act of forgiveness is for our own hearts…not to receive anything from the other person. In Ephesians Paul tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. (4:32) Sometimes this scripture is difficult to grasp because our humanity gets in the way, but its pretty simple isn’t it? Because we’ve been forgiven we are to forgive. Period.
The amazing thing is that we don’t have to rely on our own strength to do this. We have a God who, in our weakness, is stronger. A God who fights for us when we can’t even stand. A God who walks with us as we take the difficult steps in our relationships to love each other well…the way He loves us. As we walk through the messy and often painful lessons of forgiveness in life its important to remember that there’s a beauty in it all. The beauty of the cross. Because of the self-sacrificial love of the cross we are fully forgiven and free to forgive. This is what I rest on every day. When I have to tear down my pride and ask for forgiveness or I’m the one forgiving, it all results in freedom. Jesus’ way is always freedom.
Heather Williamson, a native Texan resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Steven and her three girls Kayley, Kaidence, and Kaitlyn. Heather and Steven celebrate that God rescued them from a broken marriage and redeemed their relationship with one another and their Savior. They have a passion for walking along-side couples who are struggling in their own marriages praying God will use their broken story to be a testament of hope. Heather also loves sharing life around a table with other women as they enjoy the God given pleasure of a good meal. Speaking of food, she loves the gift of a good taco, queso, or guacamole…really she just loves Tex Mex.