I love to drink tea. In fact, some might say I’m a bit of snob when it comes to tea. I know just how hot to make the water and how long to steep the leaves so it comes out just right and my drink tastes like perfection.
As of lately, my mornings have been a bit hectic and making my tea just right can be a bit of a chore. I find myself scrambling to make my morning cup only to be distracted by a stinky diaper or a tug on my shirt followed by a “More milk please mommy.” When the dust clears, I find myself clamoring for that fresh minty cup of morning tea. It smells wonderful, and looks too tempting to simply resist. I take a deep sniff and begin to sip. However, I’ve let it sit and steep too long, and find not minty sweetness, but harsh bitterness on my tongue. My beverage has deceived me and is ruined.
As I drank my cup of tea this morning, I am reminded of our talks about forgiveness. I’m struck by how many of you have shared that you have been wounded, you want to forgive, but you just can’t. You know, I’m not going to assume I know or understand the offense that was made against you. It might be silly, or it might have been life altering. But what I can tell you is this: The inability to forgive will destroy your life.
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” Hebrews 12:14-15
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:34-35
Bitterness is a tricky fellow, not easily detectable. It can mask itself in many forms, and so often goes unnoticed and unaddressed. For me, it took the form of pride. For others of you, anger. Maybe for some, it could even be shame or guilt. Either way, when bitterness burrows into the chasms of our hearts it allows satan to sneak in and begin blooming seeds in our lives that, according to Hebrews, can defile many.
Look at it this way: Author Margaret Stunt said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” How many of you “I just can’t forgivers” have wasted countless hours stewing and dwelling over the wrong caused you? How many of you have defamed the name of that someone because of your bitter unwillingness to forgive? How many of you have lost friendships and loved ones over a lack of forgiveness? I’m betting we’re all raising our hands over here.
Ladies, at the crux of it all, it comes down to choice. If you wait until you feel like you can forgive that person, you’ll be waiting forever. Forgiveness always has been a choice. Do you think Jesus wanted to die for all the wrongs you did against him? I mean, he even prayed in the garden that God the Father would allow the cup to pass over him. He CHOSE forgiveness. He chose to free you from the burden of yourself and your shortcomings and in return….he gets you.
Forgiveness really comes down to life or death. To not forgive only breeds bitter discontent that leaves you, not the person who wronged you, imprisoned to your own self-centered prideful heart and incapable of bearing profitable fruit for the Lord. OR, you can forgive. You can CHOSE to release yourself from the weight of feeling like it is your job to dole out judgement on the wrong doer. Christ is already taking care of that (Hebrews 10:30) Never have I known a person who has truly forgiven someone say that they regretted their choice. Because with forgiveness comes freedom.
If you’re sitting there reading this and saying to yourself “But Heather, I just can’t..” I’d like you to say back to yourself…”Is it worth it, then?” Is the anger and the worry and harsh words and loneliness and loss and fear and failure and pride and pain..is it all worth it to you? Because that is all that you will have near as long as you keep your hands tightly clenched around whatever this is.
You don’t have to be this wrong-doers best friend. But you do need to be willing to give them the chance to experience the grace that was so greatly and undeservingly bestowed upon you. Put the poison down. Pick up the honey instead.