I stood there in shock and disbelief. Just moments before, my supervisor had announced publicly that I had broken a rule, and then got right in my face and hissed loudly, “Don’t EVER do that again!”
My mind was racing and my face was instantly flushed and hot. She and I were both responsible for helping to host a girls’ retreat that fall, but her leadership position was higher than mine, and I had just given a girl permission to break curfew the night before. Before I had a chance to tell her that the night staff had given permission because my girl had a medical need, she chose the first available opportunity to publicly confront me for something in which I was actually in the right. I couldn’t recover composure in front of the team of staff members before tears splashed down my face. I stuttered something hardly intelligible, and felt frozen to the floor.
She had made her power play. It was done, and I was shattered.
I turned and walked away, whisking tears as I went. For the rest of the retreat, our relationship was strained. I supported every rule, followed every instruction, filled out every report. She seemed snappish, harsh, thorny. We talked. It fell flat. I prayed for her, about her.
It still hurt.
I knew I had a choice to make. Emotions weren’t helping anything at the moment, so I had to continually turn to God as an act of my will and pray for help to forgive.
Words slice. Deeply.
You bleed. It aches.
For so long afterwards, I prayed to forgive her. I discovered that her toxicity wasn’t me; it was the venom of hurt from other things going on in her life. She felt like she needed to pour it on someone. It was gnawing to get out, to find a vent. Hurt people hurt people.
Hurt people hurt people. They do.
I understood that, but I struggled, floundered, questioned, prayed. I greeted her kindly, tried to serve her, wanted to be her friend. And I was the one sliced and bleeding? It seemed so confusing. I prayed, “Lord, please help me to forgive. Show me how. I want to honor You. Please help me.”
It is a battle I still occasionally fight, but He has brought several things to me that help when I am aching with hurt.
I began to envision how much she must be hurting, and my focus turned slowly off of my own hurt and onto hers. What must it feel like to have all of that hurt bottled up and fuming to seep out? Miserable, I imagined. I envisioned how I might feel if I had to go through her circumstances. It would cause pain. I saw that. And gradually, her image of someone who was my enemy, someone against me, someone out to hurt me, changed into…
…someone human. Just human. Just like I am.
My heart softened.
Then, God prompted me to recall back to Him times when I had hurt His heart, all the way back to the day I became His child, repenting to Him of doing it all my own way.
“Oh, God! You mean, this hurt, this bleeding, this ache…? That’s how you felt? This sadness? This sense of betrayal? You feel this? You know this? And you are *perfect*, absolutely without fault!”
“Yes, I do, and yes, I am.”
My heart broke.
Then, He showed me a picture. I was the traveler in the story of the Good Samaritan. I was cut, bleeding, aching. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t walk. People passed me by. They really didn’t know what was going on. They just kept walking. I waited. And Jesus came by. He knelt down, touched the open, bleeding wounds, placed balm on them. I watched. Every place His fingers touched was healed.
And I realized I was free.
He cares about your wounds. He cares about your heart. He doesn’t heartlessly demand that you forgive while you are bleeding to death. He heals you, and then says, “Now. Now you can forgive. You can forgive because I healed you.”
There is a story very dear to my heart in the book Pilgrim’s Progress. In the tale, the traveler is taken to a room with a blazing fire at one end. The devil was in front of the fire, pouring water, buckets and buckets of water on the flames. But still it burned. After watching the phenomenon for a few minutes, the traveler broke the silence and asked his companion how the fire was still burning.
The companion took him to the room beyond. There, the Lord had a steady stream of oil feeding the fire. It would continue to burn brightly, no matter how much water the devil poured on.
He will fuel your forgiveness. You have but to ask.