“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve”
Lyrics by Matthew West
I remember when this song was released. I was in my car driving home crying while I listened to it play over the radio. I had walked the hard road of forgiveness many times over by the time I’d heard it. When God tells us to forgive someone 490 times, it’s really hard to comprehend why? I haven’t always been a forgiving person. In fact, my mom would always say, “Winter, you should work on having more mercy”. I didn’t understand what she really meant, but at the time I thought, I’m forgiving, I’m just allergic to BS. OK, so maybe she had a point back then, but boy does life have a way of teaching us the lessons we don’t necessarily plan to teach ourselves.
If you read my bio, you know that I married my college sweetheart at 19. I’m sure you could imagine the struggles of a young married couple. Finances, navigating relationships with in-laws, parenting, and learning how to be a godly couple. Marriage is a lot of things, but I consider it an illuminator. It will literally shine a light on every flaw you didn’t even know you had. Mine was pride & respect. I did not respect my husband & had trouble apologizing when I was disrespectful. Our fighting, due to our age, was so ridiculous. After one fight, he told me he was leaving me. He packed his backpack with nothing in it and walked around the apartment building only to come back home 10 minutes later. Plum silly! Yet, we struggled on, growing and learning more about ourselves with each passing day.
After 4 years of marriage, we found ourselves in a totally new state & environment once he signed a contract to play in the NFL. It was new & exciting, but ultimately it was the freight train we never saw coming. I thank God for being in a place of deep relationship with him at the time. It’s amazing how we can feel God pulling at us to draw closer to him at times. Please know that if we refuse to give into those gentle tugs, we could be rejecting the very thing that may get us through a difficult time. I had been meeting with a group of sister-friends for prayer for months in preparation for a conference. When we arrived at the conference I remember praying for quite a few women. One of the women shared with me regarding her marriage and how depressed she was due to her husbands infidelity. To this day I can remember this thought “Thank God I don’t know what that’s like”. I often wonder what God thought about my arrogant stupidity at that moment. It is amazing how much pride & confidence we place in ourselves, man, and the things of this world. Anyhow, it ended up being an amazing weekend. Lives were changed and I still hear from women who were impacted that weekend.
I arrived home and life continued as usual. About two months after, I was hit the news of infidelity in my marriage. I can’t even begin to articulate the abysmal depth of pain I felt during that time. Forget feeling forsaken by God, I felt as if He had betrayed me. How in the world could this have happened?! I had done my best to live right, and at that moment, living right sucked! I remembered those words my mom had always spoken to me about mercy when deciding how I would proceed from that point forward. For the first time in my life, I made a decision to sincerely commit to walking the path of forgiveness regardless of where it led.
There were clearly some bumps in the road moving forward. My choice to follow Christ down the road of “seventy times seven” was tested everyday. In our humanness it is almost impossible to forgive and forget offenses, especially offenses of the heart. In fact, I believe that is why Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7, because forgiveness is a continual choice that you make every single day. We choose to forgive every time our mind wants to press rewind on that old tired cassette tape of offense.
We often judge people by their capacity to love, but loving is easy for most people. I believe that God judges our capacity to forgive. We do not forgive so the person who offended us can get away with what they did, but we forgive so we can get away from under the weight of what they did.
I wrote a while back about sowing the right way. Forgiveness is our opportunity to sow the right way. The harvest we seek may not be related to the current situation that requires forgiveness, but instead, to the peace we desire to walk in after an offense has been committed. Forgiveness requires us to lay down our brushes of pride, bitterness, resentment, and retaliation before the person who ruined our painting. It is an unnatural skill and we have to work at getting better at it every single day. God is the master of restoring tainted art. I learned that the real choice wasn’t about whether to stay or leave my circumstance, but rather to submit to the process of being repainted by the master artist. I’ve learned that mercy & forgiveness is not only the right thing, but it’s the only thing that can restore the beauty of a ruined painting, unleash new possibilities with each stroke, and leave wondrous evidence of His majesty at work on the canvas of our lives!
P.S. If you have suffered the devastating blow of an affair in your marriage, I want you to reach out to me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for prayer. There is hope regardless of the decision you make going forward. You are treasured by a gracious Father in heaven who loves you more than you could ever imagine!
Until next time dear friends, I pray that each of you find the strength to forgive & enjoy living weight free!