By Fran Gardner Mora/Pearls & Presence
But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Genesis 33:4
This scripture calls to me from the depths of my need to understand forgiveness. I’ve spent many years working side-by-side with the Holy Spirit to find the hidden areas where unforgiveness festers in my heart. He has shone the light of truth into countless shadows and has broken down walls that allow me to reach into darkness I was not even aware I had. It has been hard work, but my hunger for more outpouring necessitated a thorough clearing out of anything that wasted real estate in my soul – I simply want room to develop the spiritual strength I need to answer the call of my Father.
So, out goes the residue of past hurt and rejection. Out goes shame and regret. And out goes anything negative that pulls at my mental energy. I am so much lighter and unencumbered by the clutter of unforgiveness – and yet, I’ve been steadily becoming more and more mindful that there is more work to be done.
Forgiveness is really just the first step in the process of setting relationships back to what they should be. If you believe that forgiveness is the final destination, then why don’t you feel full and content with that action? Consider this as a hint to the answer: How many times have you said, or thought, “I forgive him/her for what they did and it no longer hurts me – but I can’t forget it.”
This indicates that we are forgiving like humans forgive, not like Jesus forgave. We are forgiving for what we get out of it rather than for it’s potential to glorify God. Scripture tells us that God not only wipes the record of sin away, He forgets about it! (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12, 10:17) How incredible is our God – who knows all – to willingly and lovingly cast out the record of our sin, even from His mind! Christ-like forgiveness always embraces this heavenly amnesia. Every day is fresh and there are no transgressions dragged into the present that the enemy can use to separate you from the people in your life.
And I thought I was doing so well! Ha!
To further complicate the issue, I realized that forgiveness and forgetting transgressions were not the end game for Jesus, they were merely the vehicle for reconciling us to God. So, the target was restoration of relationship. Clearing a path back to the Father and giving us access to His heart again. This explained why forgiveness in my own strength and removing the remnants of broken relationships still left me feeling incomplete and empty. I had created spaces that were supposed to be filled with restored relationships; instead, I had filled them with a vague kind of apathy and acceptance that those connections were lost – and it was okay. As a result, I was free from carrying the weight of resentment and hurt, but there was no actual healing in the situation. It was more like anesthesia. A clever parlor trick my mind played on my heart to focus my attention on what I was accomplishing rather than what obstacles were yet to be conquered. What work still needs to be done.
So, now, I must ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. Which relationships need to be healed and which ones are past the point where that is useful, or even possible? Which ones do I go after and which ones do I lay at the foot of the cross? I’m not equipped to make those decisions on my own. I must be walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and the agape love of Jesus if I am going to have victory in this quest. And what does this effort even look like in a practical sense?
Jacob and Esau’s first encounter after twenty years of fear, anxiety, guilt and vengeful anger, was a simple embrace. They held each other and they wept over the lost years and the shattered relationship. Their broken hearts reconnected in their love for each other.
For me, in this season of coming to terms with fruitful forgiveness and resetting unity in my life, the most compelling component of this passage is not what happened – but what didn’t happen. Neither brother brought up the past transgressions … they just let it all go. Neither one of them apologized or expressed forgiveness … the honesty and emotion in their actions covered everything in God’s grace. They were good.
We often fall prey to the need to lay everything out in the open so it can be addressed, categorized, and rectified. But in practicing this strategy, we’re failing to forget the grievances. Is it really necessary to bring it all up again? And when we magnanimously tell someone that we forgive them, are we not actually accusing them of something they need to be forgiven for? We shouldn’t be surprised when our efforts are met with a defensive posture or, yet, another argument or rejection.
I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to help me grow my self-control. I’m going to rely on Him to help me be aware of how I’m approaching people for whom I have not invested righteous forgiveness. I want to engage them in the present and look forward to a restored future with them. I want to love them like Jesus loves them – with no expectation of perfection and no pressure to fulfill my needs. In reconciliation, I want my actions to speak volumes and my words to be graciously few. Let it be.