In a book I’m reading on marriage, “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti”, by Bill and Pam Farrel, I came across a section on the need to properly forgive in relationships. As Christians we obviously don’t have the same kind of relationship with everyone as we do with our spouses, but, the similarities in dealing with a topic like forgiveness applies very well to both types of situations. Unforgiveness is like a poison that works with cruel irony. We think that when we withhold forgiveness, dangling the guilt of the one who has wronged us just out of reach, we are punishing them with our tight-fist. But in the twist of things we later will always come to find that as we thought we were administering the potion so adeptly to them, we were actually injecting it into our own vein the entire time.
I just wanted to cherry pick a few lines from the this chapter and let them challenge and resonate as they did with me:
“Vagueness in dealing with forgiveness only leads to doubts about whether forgiveness has truly been achieved.”
“The real tragedy in not forgiving shows up here. If you persist in waiting until your spouse makes up for the mistake, the pain of the mistake will control your life.”
“When you define your spouse by the negative impact he or she has had on your life, you make him or her bigger than life. You certainly make him or her bigger than you, because you have given him or her the ability to determine the state of your life.”
“Manipulation is an attempt to emotionally blackmail another person.”
“Forgiveness is a protection for our relationship.”
“If you each selfishly hold on to your right to be angry, you will keep your anger and bitterness – but lose each other!”
– Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti – Bill and Pam Farrel
In thinking about this I was reminded of a section in one of Philip Yancey’s book (his best book in my humble opinion), “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”. With example after example Yancey puts on display the power of both forgiveness and unforgiveness – which he refers to as “ungrace”. I leave you with this story:
In her memoir of a truly dysfunctional family, The Liar’s Club, Mary Karr tells of a Texas uncle who remained married to his wife but did not speak to her for forty years after a fight over how much money she spent on sugar. One day he took out a lumber saw and sawed their house in half. He nailed planks to cover the raw sides and moved one of the halves behind a copse of scruffy pine trees on the same acre of ground. There the two, husband and wife, lived out the rest of their days in separate half-houses.
Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not settle all questions of blame and fairness – often it pointedly evades those questions – but it does allow a relationship to start over, to begin anew. In that way, said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. Not our capacity to think, but our capacity to repent and to forgive makes us different. Only humans can perform that most unnatural act, which transcends the relentless law of nature.
– Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Pondering these kinds of things almost forces me to see Jesus’ words to the woman caught in the act of adultery, or Jesus’ words to the repentant thief on the cross, or to the entire world as He hung on His own tree, gasping and dying and loving, as the most beautiful words in all the Bible, in all of history for that matter. Jesus offered me that same message, “you’re forgiven”, and He continues to offer it daily, moment by moment, any time I am thrown before him by the standard of the law. And after He declares my forgiveness He always adds, “go and do likewise”. He says this not to strong-arm me into feeling just how painful it is for Him to absorb my sin, but as an offer of freedom. Freedom that can only be experienced when the things that seem so important in this world (being right, being powerful, having people’s admiration, etc…) “grow strangely dim in the light of” grace.
Friends, I encourage you to open your hands, release the things that you have held onto so tightly, and feel the freedom that God intends for us through forgiveness.