Reflection on Forgiveness
Written by Katie Harper
The Abraham Project corps member
When I was younger, I thought I understood forgiveness. I thought I was pretty good at it.
Then in college, this girl drunkenly slammed a car door, not realizing I had bent down and my head was in the way. The result was a concussion to my optic chiasm.
I had to drop all but two of my classes. I lost the opportunity to learn from a man whose thesis readers had been J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis; I had to drop my French minor; I lost the GPA and hours for Phi Beta Kappa; I couldn’t work for a semester; I gained twenty pounds; I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t play pick up basketball, I couldn’t sing in choir, I couldn’t even walk to class for a while.
She never apologized.
How do you forgive someone who isn’t sorry? I could forgive an apology – there would be a sense of righteous mercy. Even God asked us to repent of our sins. Be reconciled with God, says Paul. The merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever on those who fear Him, says the psalmist. Forgiveness, it seemed, had to be a two way street. I spoke with my ministers. I prayed. I would have read the Bible, but that wasn’t an option.
It makes me wonder how frustrated God must be with us.
It’s a universal problem. How insincere must our apologies seem to the Father when we keep repeating our mistakes? How ingenuine must my repentance appear when I keep doing the same things? It must seem like I didn’t even apologize at all.
Honestly, I’m still not sure what forgiveness is. It is so purely divine I cannot fathom it. He has not dealt with us according to our sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. I can’t wrap my head around that.
It just doesn’t seem just, does it? We crave justice, it’s a part of the human condition. A woman shot her husband. A man raped a woman. Justice says he die. Justice says he burn.
Justice says we burn.
As Lent approaches, I think of what God was willing to put Himself, His Son, through for our salvation. Our reconciliation was bought at a high cost. Mercy met with justice. “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts, not your clothing.”
God wants us back – He wants us as broken, sinful, as we are, and He wants us with all our suffering, our attempts to make it better, our tears, our bitterness. Our darkness doesn’t drive Him away; He drives away our darkness. For the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
I think I’ve forgiven that girl. I pray for her, and genuinely hope she is doing well in her life. Maybe that’s as close as I can come. Forgiveness is so divine, maybe I will never do it right.
Thank God He’ll forgive me even if I haven’t.