“I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself… My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” -Darcy
Unfortunately, Darcy and I have that much in common. I do not forgive easily and can hold onto hurt feelings for far too long. I nurse my grudges and dwell on the ways others have wronged me. Even thought I know it is wrong, I justify and excuse my unwillingness to forgive every time someone wrongs me a second time. Every once in a while I will be convicted and will resolve to be more forgiving. I determine to just grit my teeth and forgive anyone and everyone, and for a time, it seems to work. But since I am relying on my own strength, it never lasts and rarely is genuine. I don’t want to forgive these people, and I don’t want God to forgive them either.
I’m pretty sure Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant just for me. The debt I owe to God is so vast, but I try to minimize my own sins and instead magnify the sins of others against me. I want Him to forgive me even when I refuse to forgive others, and intentionally forget that Jesus commanded us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
This year’s VBS will be about Jonah. I thought I knew that story: God says go east, Jonah goes west, storm, big fish, second chance, yadda, yadda, yadda… But while yes, I did know all the facts, I soon realized that I didn’t know the deeper story. As I wrote the VBS lessons, I kept wondering why God chose to use Jonah. Why didn’t God use someone more willing? I mean, Jonah keeps a bad attitude throughout the entire book – even at the very end he is still grouching! Jonah at first outright refuses to do the Lord’s will, runs in the opposite direction, attempts suicide rather than relent, then only agrees to obey because God gets him swallowed up by a fish! And when he finally obeys, he does it as sulkily and minimally as he can! And his reason for his attitude? “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” So basically, Jonah was saying, “God, I knew this would happen. I didn’t want you to forgive them!!!”
Oh. Yeah, it hit me right about then, too.
Sounds like me, doesn’t it? Not that I tried to kill myself rather than forgive people, but I continually fight against what God has commanded me to do. I claim God’s compassion and forgiveness for myself and would deny the same to others. That realization -that I am like unforgiving Jonah – was a bitter tasting one. Especially when I considered that Jonah had a much more “justified” reason for wanting God to not forgive Nineveh than I have for any of my grudges. The Assyrians had murdered Jonah’s countrymen, including women and children. Any reason for a grudge I might have pales in comparison.
So what do I do with this? Where do I go from here? One thing is clear: I must learn to forgive.