Recently, I came into contact with several people I knew and loved many years ago. We went our separate ways when my heart was deeply troubled. At the time, I walked away and took with me the pain that comes when one's heart is wounded, along with the anger born of offence and unforgiveness.
For seven years, when the wound was touched, unforgiveness ushered forth anger, which came to protect my heart once more. But, anyone who knows God knows He is love and knows we are to be His heart upon this earth, and we are to trust God to protect and defend us and our hearts rather than emotion - which I didn't do, so, apart from making me feel justified for my response, unforgiveness and anger did nothing to help me become a better person, nor did it help me to walk in love as a living testimony to God and His goodness.
Seven years - yes, seven years after the fact, if I ran into someone I knew 'back then' my heart would still find that old wound; I would then pick at it, prod it, and even shove a knife into it until it bled the old "woe is me and to hell with you" chorus. I seemed to be trapped back then, no matter how much life moved on. So, I prayed, "God!!!! I'm trying to forgive. What's my problem...?!" to which He replied (from His heart to mine), "You've been selfish, self-centred and self-focused..." To hear that from anyone else would've left me playing with anger again, but when God speaks truth, you are set free. I took a close look at what He said, and realised, "Oh, yeah..." and in came the ability to forgive. My thoughts had been trapped on 'poor me' and led me to care solely about the offence I took on, and not the love we Christians are supposed to carry, walk in, and offer to all - even our enemy.
Over seven years beyond that revelation, I return to where my heart was once wounded and find not only has the offence been taken from my heart, but so has the pain and the scars a wound usually causes. I was amazed to find God had worked that much on this heart of mine.
But it didn't stop there, I realised yesterday (Feb 14, 2013). True forgiveness goes beyond 'I forgive you' and 'I can love you again' and 'I do love you' and even beyond 'It doesn't hurt anymore.' Or so I have been shown. It enables love to take hold of your heart in such a way that your eyes are opened to the hurt you cause in responding to wounds, and especially in the anger we use to defend ourselves and justify our moods. With eyes opened by love, in such a place, you are humbled when you realise the pain you have caused. This, I see, is a gift from God, not something we can manufacture on our own. I wasn't working to be humbled beyond wanting to forgive. I would've been more than happy to leave it at 'Ok, God, I'll forgive them and let go; let's move on...' But God is the God of resurrection. He revives the heart, and He seeks to restore that which has been broken - in this case, a relationship between His children. And in order to do that, I needed to be humbled. But that's not as bad as it sounds. This, too, being born of truth, is quite freeing.
Now, when I look back to where my heart was wounded, I don't see the wound. I don't take hold of what happened and feel any bitterness whatsoever. Rather, I look back and repent for my responses from the moment the offence took place. I repent for any and all pain, wounds and offences I went on to cause 'them' - and others that anger usually strikes out at when someone else gets in the way of it. Again, this is not by my power, but His. In my own strength, in my flesh, I would've gladly remained offended and could've continued to justify my attitude. But God doesn't want us to remain imprisoned in any way - not even to our own emotions. So, He waited for me to be open to more healing, until I dared to open this part of my heart to Him, then He brought the healing and the freedom and love that follows - and that through His Son and Spirit.
From that moment of earnest repentance, when humility enters your heart, you're taken, by the Holy Spirit, further away from what was done to you and you are moved with compassion when understanding and sympathy for 'them' enters your heart. You start to see what was happening with 'them' at the time. You see their hurt - that may very well have been the reason they hurt you in the first place. You see with new eyes and understanding. Where there was once anger, and quite possibly hatred, there is now empathy and love. I was, and still am, in awe of being shown this.
This is true freedom. Not that we justify our anger, but we no longer suffer anger. Not that we simply forgive, but we discover understanding and are moved with compassion - even towards our enemy. Not that we raise our chin, square our shoulders and, with our nose in the air, smugly say, "I forgive you," but we are free to love so greatly that we hold no fear of being hurt again and seek to exalt and encourage the hearts we once condemned.
Through Jesus and all He has done for us, we can receive emotional healing if we are open to it, and find complete forgiveness in God for the offences and sins we have committed over the years. It amazes me to see that love can be this deep - yet, I know now that love can and does go even deeper in and with God - for others, and for us. In seeing this greater depth of love, I am blown away by the greatness of God's heart- more than I ever have before.
I am in awe. I have healing, freedom and love, and this not of my own doing, but of His. I now feel so blessed, so loved, and so very grateful for the healing, the humility, and all the great things that come with these things. It's like being able to breathe again - whereas the unforgiveness felt like I was suffocating; drowning; dying a slow and painful death.
So, what happens after the hurting stops? What happens after you allow Jesus into your heart so He can heal it? You are set free of the pain, of the past, and you no longer feel attached to those things. And your heart is enlarged, filled with more love, humbled by love, matured by love, freed by love, and rejoicing, greater faith, more gratitude, peace, hope and all those good 'feelings' - along with a greater intimacy with true love, and with God - is yours.
...Something else for me to ponder. :)