According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary one of the definitions of the term forgive is the following :
a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
This definition actually makes me smile. For many of my younger years my mouth had a mind of its own and often did not consult with my brain before engaging in conversation. I realize now that I was lacking the filter of wisdom and discernment which is useful in deciphering not just how a thought sounds in your brain, but the actual potential that it has to impact the person to whom it is directed.
I can recall several after the fact apologies I had to make once that very valuable filter was implanted into my heart. Learning to obey the inner leadings of the Holy Spirit that I’m sure often screamed at me “No!” “Stop!” “Don’t say that!” was a process for me. Later, the Lord would gently bring to my heart’s attention what I had said that could have been-and probably was– offensive to the hearer. I then had a choice to make.
At some point deciding that obedience to God was more valuable than my own pride I would take a deep breath and dial. Especially in those early days, over the phone was much easier than a face to face apologetic encounter.
My heart rate would increase as I dialed the number while rehearsing what I would say in my head. I would usually start with casual small talk while working up the courage to confront the issue at hand. With a moment of silence and a deep breath to transition I would, often with shaking voice, explain why I had really called and apologize for the verbal faux pas. And then, feeling very humble and vulnerable, I would wait for their response.
Responses varied. Sometimes the receiver of my apology seemed clueless of any error in communication. They would laugh, dismiss my apology as unnecessary, and move onto whatever topic of conversation that next struck them. I would get off of the phone feeling that “at least I obeyed God.”
Other times, the awkward silence which I met with offered me confirmation that indeed my words had wounded. Stuck at a difficult impasse’ we each held the receivers to our ears waiting. Short, tight words would be offered but it was obvious that they were a reflection only of the “shoulds” within that person’s heart- they were still hurt and angry and my apology, no matter how sincere, did not carry the clout to outweigh my offense. I would get off of the phone feeling anxious, heart sick and unsettled wishing that there was something more I could do to make it right.
A final response that I met with was that of grace. Offered by seasoned women of God, these were teachable moments for me. Never dismissing whatever truth there was in my confession and repentance, there was acknowledgement of the inappropriate comment I had made. This acknowledgement would then be chased by an undeniable outpouring of the love through forgiveness grace and mercy of God. I would end the call feeling thankful and rightly restored with that person. In those times I could fathom no better gift than the mercy which I had been offered.
I desire to never forget that relief which I experienced when being released from the debt of offense. As time has gone on, I too have occasionally been the receiver of a repentant telephone call. My heart’s desire is that I would be able to lay aside my own hurt in order to extend that same grace filled forgiveness to others.
Father, strengthen me to always resist resentment and embrace grace.