A friend wrote me about a family rift that was long standing. It had endured for several decades. I was reminded of this prayer/poem I wrote in my book Prayers of an Omega: Facing the Transitions of Aging.
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered (Ps. 32:1).
I come before you, almighty God, Redeemer, forgiver of sins, with my tail between my legs. Today you taught this old dog a new trick. Not that you didn’t try to teach me this before, but I never caught on. You spoke to me about it again and again, but I didn’t want to learn.
I believed in Christ’s love. I knew and cherished your forgiveness of my sin. But I couldn’t forgive her for what she had done to me. And I never saw my hardness as sin.
Today I learned that an older person like myself can forgive someone even for something that happened long ago but left a bad and lingering memory.
The hurt happened unexpectedly—she made fun of the way I talked in front of my friends. She ridiculed me—and I could never forget. Every time I thought of her, my hurt leaped onto my back like an angry cat I couldn’t shake off.
I often thought what I would like to say to her if I ever got her alone. In the night hours when I couldn’t sleep, I prepared long speeches that would make her sit back and recognize her offense.
Other times I dismissed it. Just a problem in personal relationships, I told myself. Stay apart. But this robbed me of the opportunity to know her better and to benefit from her friendship.
Yet, Lord, I reminded you often she had no right to speak of me in that way, especially before my friends. She had turned me into a useless piece of trash thrown into the gutter.
I tried to numb myself to the pain. No use.
I lost the joy of fellowship with you because her face always stood between you and me. I became bitter and watchful of her and of others. I wanted her to admit her guilt. Then I’d forgive her.
Then you showed me through your Word that you set up no preconditions for forgiving. The father forgave the prodigal before he returned and made his big statement.
You showed me that my pain, my unforgiving spirit, was my problem, not hers. As long as I couldn’t forgive her, I was bound to her. The chains would become tighter and more painful with the passing years.
So your word was “Forgive as I forgive. Seventy times seven. Release her. Don’t bind her to you with your anger.” You said, “In faith, reach out and forgive. Let Christ’s work on the cross give you the power to do so.”
And I did. I could say, “I forgive you, friend. I know you in your weakness and your strength. I see you as a person made in the image of God. I see you as person who also needs the love of Christ. I know you and I love you.”
With these words, I was free. Free of my burden. She and I could start again. It didn’t matter if she felt guilty about her idle words. That was her problem with you. She may hurt me again, and I may have to forgive her again. But the slate has been cleared.
You have released me from the past, healed the present, and made the future a possibility of joy. I praise your matchless name. Amen.