I’m sitting at my desk with the computer on, iPod playing with an inviting, warm mug of coffee sitting next to me. They are waiting patiently for me to start work, but I don’t. My feet are resting on the edge of my desk while I hold our big, fat cat in my lap. She contentedly purrs and occasionally nuzzled me on the chin. Absently, I notice how her soft, heavy, weight in my lap feels comforting. I continue to stare out the window lost in thought.
My chest feels heavy like an invisible brick is pushing down hard between my breasts, my head aches, but it’s the heavy sensation on my chest that’s troubling me. The weight isn’t the beginning of a heart attack; it’s the result of years of hurt. This brick has been carefully constructed by the fibrous tissue of judgment, verbal abuse, bitterness, unjust behavior, self-protection, and un-forgiveness. And it’s heavy, pressing down on my sternum making it hard to breathe.
The unusual thing about this brick is that it’s frequently weightless, as if gone from my life. During this time my heart is hopeful and I want to spend time considering and praying about my relationships. With a hopeful spirit I choose to forgive; I choose to lay my hurts down before God. I desire to draw closer to Him and see others through His eyes.
Then something happens to set off old patterns of abuse and hurtful words are hurled through the air and I feel the impact of them. I feel them working their way into the brick, finding a comfortable resting place next to the other festering pain. The brick is back, heavier than before, pressing mercilessly down on my sternum and I wonder how all those negative, hurtful emotions from the past can come back with such force after I have chosen to forgive and let them go.
So, here I sit at my desk with every necessary tool for a productive day. But instead of working, I watch the tree branches move to the rhythm of the wind while pondering the uncomfortable pressure of the emotional brick on my chest. I want to know how to truly lay down the hurt from yesterday. I want to forgive so deeply that past pain will not have the power to mix with and amplify the hurts of today. But, I’m human and for some unknown reason God made us emotionally complex beings that feel passionately, struggle mightily, and desperately need His guidance.
With this knowledge I ask God for his forgiveness and help. I acknowledge my pain is real, but so is theirs. I admit my part in the situation, because I’m not innocent. Then I thank God for the good within my loved one and within myself; we are both God’s children. And the brick gets lighter; for now. Each time I practice seeking God’s truth in the midst of emotional pain they strengthen me and give me courage to forgive, again.
I’m grateful that God’s forgiveness is not like that of humans, Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.” This verse is comforting and humbling; how can God forgive so completely? I long to be able to forgive like God, but as of today, I don’t fully understand how to forgive the transgressions of others. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe our seriously limited ability to forgive keeps us humble before God.
Debora Shelford Hobbs