I think I am starting to get a glimpse of what Jesus meant when He equated anger to murder. His standard has always been higher than ours. When you are angry at someone, there is a part of you that wishes they were no more because in that moment they are such an inconvenience. Strangely though, it is the same Jesus who asks that we forgive 7x 70 times. In short, we are to never stop forgiving. We are to always extend grace. Sometimes I want to argue with Him on this one. I would like to present my case backed up with witnesses, laws and evidence. I am even tempted to accuse Him of being out of touch with the great injustice that I perceive I am suffering.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Isaiah 40:27 NKJV
A couple of weeks ago, I lost one of my best friends in life. I tear up every time I say that because it’s like it hits me afresh, the loss. There is simply none like Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa. One of Joel’s greatest attributes and believe me when I say they were many was how gracious he was. Joel extended so much grace. It’s his fault that I hurt this much over his passing. It really is. You see, I wronged Joel in a major way when our relationship was fairly new. I haven’t been very good with confrontation and apologies though out my life. I have been such a people pleaser, I always worked so hard to make sure I was never in a situation where I had to apologise, especially not for major things. But as life would have it, I wronged some people. I wronged Joel and in a major way. Because I felt guilty, I tried to avoid him. His anger was very accusing to me. Do you know what happened? Joel reached out to me. Joel made the relationship right again. Joel sought me out over and over again.
I am yet to meet and relate with a person more gracious than Joel. If he were to read this, I’m pretty sure he’d refute it. There were many times I went to him ranting against someone and he would listen. What a great listener! Whatever the situation, he considered both parties as needing of grace. He helped me see that many times. There are days when it is he who would come to me with a rant but it would eventually end up at him being gracious, seeking to mend the relationship even when it was him who was wronged.
He wrote this sometime after he had come out on the other side of one of his biggest forgiveness battles. I knew the story. It hadn’t been easy.
The work of forgiveness. Forgiveness must be born in us. We can’t forgive on our own. It is not in our nature.
O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”
Psalms 16:2 NKJV
The only good in any of us is God really. Our only chance at forgiveness is God and He understands what it is like.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Hebrews 4:15 NKJV
In July 2017, this ended. It’s been ten months. Ten months yet I realise on certain days that I have residue emotions, un-dealt with issues and feelings I hadn’t yet felt. I wish I could say it has been easy. I wish I could say that because God has loved on me so much it has been easy. I wished it was. I don’t like drama. I wished it had been quiet and quick, almost as if it had never happened. Unfortunately it hasn’t been like that. I have had to feel every emotion and face every memory and broken dream as it came to me. There is nothing anyone can ever tell you or a class you can take that could ever prepare you for a thing like that. Grieving a living person. On some days feeling like a recovering drug addict, super aware of how much time it has been since you last broke down. The panic and fear that you might never actually get over it and be stuck there forever. The chest pains. The crying yourself to sleep. The feeling marked by a thing. The limbo your life seems to have fallen into. The weight loss,yo!!! The not knowing if you’ll ever stop crying. The constant prayer request. The missing. The trips down memory lane looking for signs and answers. The guilt for taking so long to be over it. The resolutions that you will guard your heart more. The not knowing if you even care about heart things anymore. The wanting to choose God’s way but feeling too afraid and inadequate. The not knowing. The hoping. The being mad at yourself for hoping. The triggers that you didn’t know were triggers until they triggered you. Like I said, nothing can ever prepare you.
What I think I was most unprepared for was the anger. I generally really hate being angry and try to avoid it as much as possible. I will choose peace any day. However, for the sake of feeling all the feelings so that I can heal fully, I couldn’t run from it. It was also really loud on certain days. It demanded a voice. It demanded audience and I gave it. I don’t have that much experience dealing with anger because I have spent most of my life either avoiding angering situations, brushing things off or never really processing my feelings.
“I feel like God is saying that you should forgive” , a friend of mine told me , more than six months later. I had asked for a word from the Lord to help me deal. This is not the word I wanted. However, this is a word I knew to be true. I thought I had forgiven. I mean I had said it to myself from the very beginning because I knew it to be the right thing to do but here I was being asked to do it again. So, I had a conversation with God where I mentioned out loud one by one the things I was forgiving. I needed to be specific. Some of these things, though felt, I had never accepted or admitted to myself until then. They were not few. There were places where the forgiveness was from me to me. There were areas I blamed myself. There were places I was angry at some of my friends (sorry guys…lol). I went through a whole week where my prayer just consisted of speaking forgiveness. It was freeing.
This is what I have learnt about forgiveness. Forgiveness is trusting God. At the beginning of the year, God said to me “Let me fight for you.” Forgiveness is pretty much taking yourself out of the equation and putting all your precious eggs in this basket called God’s hands. Forgiveness feels like walking on water. It is quite scary sometimes. It can feel unfair and again you will be required to trust that God is just and He is for you. Forgiveness is a journey. Be gracious towards yourself. Some things just simply take time. Forgiveness is freeing. It might seem like such a cliché statement but it is the truth. Set yourself free, forgive. Forgiveness is of God, apart from Him, none of us can do it. Forgiveness is not dependent on apologies. It’s a choice. You choose to forgive, not because they are sorry but because God asks you trust Him and believe Him when He asks that you forgive.
“You forget I know where you live” a thought that crossed my mind. We laughed about it with a friend. We never consider that the people we’ve wronged know where we live…lol.
Forgive, so that you can forget that address in peace.