Monday, March 1, 2010
Father, Forgive Them
“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24
Years of hardness were built up in my heart, like layers of stain and varnish applied to old woodwork. It would take some work, some old-fashioned elbow grease to remove it. I needed to scrape and sand the pain and bitterness of a long-held grudge away and it wouldn’t come easy.
After trying and failing with every method I knew, I finally fell to my knees in disgust, ready to give up and let that hardness remain. I became lazy and didn’t want to work at removing the hurt anymore and decided that I would just let it settle in and remain in my heart. After all, it was my hardness; I knew it inside and out. I ran it through my mind night after night before falling asleep, and in the morning, upon awakening, there it was again, drawing tears of pain from my heart and out from under my still-closed eyelids.
Each day and night I replayed the movie of sorrow in my mind in which I was so badly hurt by the words that someone who had been a friend once told me; the words that stung like a slap to the face and made me feel as if the meaning behind them was a wish that I was dead. The misunderstanding of that moment remained with me for years, damaging my self-esteem. I realized that I was only harming myself by holding on to the hurt, I knew that I needed to let go.
The harsh words spoken to me might have been a mistake, but my hardness of heart was not. I continued to nurture it and relive it day after day. I refused to release it until I looked upon my Lord, hanging on that wood of shame, love nailed to the cross and I heard His voice saying…
“Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24
If Jesus could look down from His cross and utter those words of forgiveness in his darkest moment, how could I hold back my forgiveness while living in my own world of darkness? I had to begin to let go so that I could live free once again.
I took my hard heart to confession. I split it open and poured out the bitterness that was contained within it. The priest looked at me gently and spoke softly. “This is a day of celebration,” he said. “You don’t have to cry tears of pain anymore. You are free from all of that bitterness and pain that held you bound. You can forgive your friend and walk away from here renewed, remembering only the good and forgetting the bad. Release your anger and frustration and remember that your friend didn’t know what he was doing.”
And I felt God’s incredible mercy right then and there, mercy for me, and mercy for the one who had hurt me. Forgiveness is freedom. I am finally free because I remember that as long as God can forgive me, who had gotten so good at growing resentment in my heart, then I too, can forgive others. I have laid my burden down at the foot of His cross, and now my own cross feels so much lighter, so much easier to carry. That hardness that felt like a rock inside my heart was now like a balloon, and I could release the string and watch God carry it into the distance, far away from me, forever.
“Be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
Lent 2010 has been named “The Season of Mercy” in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee-how have you felt the Lord’s mercy in your own life and how can you show God’s mercy to others?