Receiving Forgiveness

Sorry

I said the words without thinking, but as soon as they were out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. Worse were the seconds after, watching her face fall and the hurt flash in the eyes of my friend from those thoughtless words. I could practically hear the thud as they landed heavy and hard against her heart.

My apology came out quickly and oh how I meant it! But the damage was already written all over my friend. She graciously accepted my apology, but we both knew my words were still stinging.

Saying our goodbyes for the evening I offered another sincere apology, as if by saying the word “sorry” enough times I could erase the words from earlier, but I parted my friend’s company that night with a heaviness in my own heart.


I offered another sincere apology, as if by saying the word “sorry” enough times I could erase the words from earlier.


On the drive home, thinking about what I had said, an argument started up in my mind. Maybe my friend was just too sensitive. After all, I hadn’t meant my words in the way they came out. Was it really my fault if she took them wrong? For a few moments alone in my car, I felt defensive.

Then the look on my friend’s face returned to my mind and the argument within me grew silent. I had hurt her, and I really was sorry.

For a few days afterwards, I tried to be extra encouraging and especially nice. Efforts quickly fell flat. My motivation was simply restitution for bad behavior. However, my friend wasn’t looking for restitution. She needed my apology, and I needed her forgiveness.

We’ve hung out countless times together since then, and that forgiveness has been exercised in the way that she continues to be my dear friend. She didn’t push me away. She doesn’t hesitate to share her time or her heart with me. She has forgiven me and finds joy in our friendship.

I’m amazed at how powerful forgiveness is. And how difficult it is to receive.


I’m amazed at how powerful forgiveness is. And how difficult it is to receive.


It’s hard to admit I was wrong. It’s harder still to take responsibility for the wrong. And harder yet, allowing myself the grace and the freedom of forgiveness once it’s been sought and extended to me.

Even now months later, I cringe when I think about the hurt my words caused my friend’s heart. It’s embarrassing and sometimes too quickly does it give way to reminders of other moments when my thoughtlessness went before my sensitivity and understanding. Then there I am, beating myself up for things I can’t undo, words I can’t take back, and wanting the forgiveness I’ve already asked for and received.

It’s easy to make a parallel to the forgiveness Jesus extends to me. It’s a sermon I’ve heard since I was a little girl, and forgiveness is a prayer I’ve prayed a lot. But too often I continue to live in the shame of my past life, or even the shame of words from a few months ago.

In that shame, I continue to try and make restitution for that bad behavior I can never seem to completely overcome.


My friend didn’t forgive me because of a few days of anxiously performed niceties. My friend forgave me because I asked for it and she too desired reconciliation.


Which is why doing good deeds has such appeal. I can point to my good behavior in hopes of covering up the bad. As with my friend, I want to quickly put a band aid of niceties on the hurt I caused. But my friend didn’t forgive me because of a few days of anxiously performed niceties. My friend forgave me because I asked for it and she too desired reconciliation.

The same goes for Jesus. He doesn’t grant me forgiveness after He sees all the nice things I’ve done. He grants me forgiveness simply because I ask for it and He wants to be with me. He knows that shame will keep me from Him, and so He forgives me and with it sends away that shame.

How horrible for my friend, if I was always performing niceties for her and never spent time being genuine. How exhausting for me, if I was always working to earn her friendship instead of enjoying it.


The same goes for Jesus…He grants me forgiveness simply because I ask for it and He wants to be with me.


And so too with Jesus. His forgiveness means we don’t have to earn our relationship with Him, and we don’t have to perform in His presence.

Now be free and rest in that, believer.