Forgiving can be really hard to do.
But have you ever though of it as art? Art is enchanting and art is messy and each workmanship is unique. It involves creativity and humanness and mistakes. You can’t have a quality piece of art without a lot of trial and error and erasing and lessons.
A sculpture starts as a lump of clay. It gets mashed and twisted and wet and cut and if I were that clay I believe I’d be hoping that part was over soon. If I were the painter’s canvas I’d be hating the part where I am smeared with wet brushes and then have it all wiped off while the artist stared at me with concern or worse yet….sets me aside for another day.
We all want the ending….the beauty….the admiration….the high praise and worth. But we don’t really want what it takes to get there.
And what, you may wonder, does any of this have to do with forgiveness? Just everything!
A girl, Sue, gets hurt by a friend. Not just “you hurt my feelings” kind of hurt, but deeply betrayed and wounded. She is cruelly judged and without warning, the friendship is over and the betrayer has cast Sue out like a worthless piece of garbage. Sue is shocked and devastated. This is a wound that feels unhealable. The betrayal shakes her to the core and threatens all of her other relationships. How can she trust anyone else after this? And to top it off, the betrayer continues to stab, gossip, lie and attack. How will poor Sue ever recover? She is devastated by someone she believed was on her side in life. She questions her own ability to discern whether someone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
She fights the urge to hurt back.
She crawls in the corner of her bedroom (i.e. under the covers with chocolate) and licks her wounds. She cries to herself then cries to God. He comforts her, but it’s still so incredibly painful. She doesn’t lose her faith. She continues to believe what God tells her….that He will be her defender. That she can trust Him. But the betrayer doesn’t leave Sue alone. Every time Sue thinks she is starting to recover another dart of her now-ex-friend comes flying toward her. Pain all over again.
More crying. More chocolate.
Slowly, with time, she begins to heal. Every day she seeks comfort and every day He gives it to her. God touches her sad, broken heart with His love and grace and one crack at a time He glues her back together. But she is changed. She can’t ever be the same old Sue. She has found a place in herself that only the wounds could have shown her. She has experienced a depth of love from God that she never needed before. Her eyes have been opened and she has a new kind of wisdom.
This wisdom is has been gained through suffering.
The betrayer doesn’t stop and the problem stays unresolved. But Sue is getting stronger and doesn’t fall quite so hard the next time a dart flies. She sees it coming. She ducks just in time for it to only graze her. The wound is smaller.
The healing comes more quickly.
But then, the hardest part is yet to come. Forgiving the betrayer. Wishing good things for this now-ex-friend who claims to be so grateful for God’s grace but stabs people in the back, is going to be the hardest part of the healing.
Sue isn’t sure if she can do it, but she has come this far.
She must keep going.
Let’s stop here for a minute. This story could be about any of us. We have all been deeply wounded at some point. By a friend, a spouse, a child, a pastor, a parent. Recovery is slow but we are His clay, we are His canvas. The splats and messes and manipulating of the materials….the pounding of the chisel, that is painful! We can’t become a masterpiece without it. We can’t have genuine wisdom without having suffered, and wounds from a loved one are the worst kind of suffering. Give me a broken leg over a broken heart any day!
But we can’t stop at enduring the suffering and coming away with wisdom and joy. We can’t just pick up our chocolate and go home…we would miss the best part! The part that is so glorious and gorgeous that it is not even imaginable to us while we are being pounded.
God’s magnificent creation! That piece of art that only the final, finishing touches can accomplish.
Sue, bit by bit and moment by moment, forgives her betrayer. Somewhere along the way she decided that each time the bitterness wells up or the pain sears through her heart, she will release it. She will, even though at first she doesn’t want to, pray for the betrayer and for all of those who took the betrayer’s side. Those who sent their own darts of ignorant judgment and added to the misery. Those who believed the betrayer out of their own weakness…..she will pray for their peace.
She will ask for God to heal them too.
As she makes the shift from hurt to healed, she begins to see bits of her own part in the problem, ways she contributed. She asks Him to forgive her as well. She sees her imperfections and lays them at His feet. “Take my weakness Lord, use them for your glory,” she cries. She continues to work daily to forgive both herself and her perceived-enemies.
It isn’t instant. Sue falls back sometimes. Like the artist who doesn’t quite like the angle of the lines, she has to occasionally erase and try again. But as she slowly matures and changes, she can see the beauty emerging. She begins to see how the pain of the situation has shaped her. When the betrayer lashes out with more accusations, Sue quietly slips back and sadly prays again for the now-ex-friend; half of her sadness stems from the betrayers not knowing how hard Sue is working to give love in return for the hate. If only the betrayer could see Sue’s heart, but she knows that can’t happen.
More growth. More lessons.
Others begin to notice the difference in Sue. Someone tells her how they saw the whole thing from afar….they watched the art being created and are inspired by the beauty of what she is becoming. Another person tells her how blessed they have been by her gentleness with the situation. It gives her strength.
She continues to allow herself to be shaped, the forgiveness continues to become easier and easier as she lets it go each time….refusing to let the bitterness have her. Never giving in to the temptation to hurt back. Every time she releases the hurt she can feel the shift in who she is. Sue becomes a woman after God’s own heart. It is slow, years of pain and trial and error. But she eventually becomes a work of art, chipped away and shaped into something she could not have created on her own
She is refined into a work of art so grand, so breathtaking, that she is amazed herself.
Look what God did!!!
Each with our own betrayal stories, we know that the betrayer might stay the same. The darts may keep flying. And certainly there will be more betrayals down the road. More heartbreak. But if we allow it to become a work of art, being shaped in God’s hands, then He promises to use it for our good and His glory.
If you are dealing with a betrayer in your life, I want to encourage you to see it as a forming masterpiece in you! We are each as unique as the snowflakes and I don’t know how you should handle specific situations. But I do know that even if nothing around you changes and if darts are flying all around your head (believe me…I understand that!) that inside of you there is indescribable beauty being created! Give it to God and let Him turn you into something that shines with His glory and radiates His love.
Here are a few books that have helped me through my own story of betrayal and hurt:
1. Wounded by God’s People: Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts by Ann Graham Lotz
2. Between a Rock and a Grace Place: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life by Carol Kent
3. Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
4. Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall
5. Surviving One Bad Year: 7 Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning by Nancie Carmichael
(these are affiliate links)