It has been years since I honestly could say I didn’t know of someone I needed to forgive. There are people that just cause pain and have no clue what they are doing, and I have such a hard time walking with them, letting them in and, most definitely, rejoicing with them.
A few weeks ago I came across the Jonah story from a perspective that I haven’t heard but once before. The words described how cruel the people of Nineveh had been for generations to the Israelites. Then it talked about how Jonah was said to have been a man of God who disobeyed when told to go to tell the Ninevites to repent of their wickedness and that God loved them. Every child who has ever been to church knows what happened next. Jonah got on a boat heading the opposite direction. When a big storm rolls in, Jonah and the crew realize this storm must be Jonah’s fault so they come to the decision to throw him overboard. This fact has had me since I was young. We most certainly live in a different time because if the crew on a ship in the 21st century was concerned about a storm heading their way and decided to pick a sinner and throw them overboard to see if it would stop the storm…it would be so bad!
Then comes the large fish and it eats him up and keeps him in his belly for three days, then spits him out after he repents. This is where all my Sunday school teachers would interject, “so you better obey”, as if to say that if I didn’t eat my veggies or clean my room like I was told I might too get swallowed up until I gave in. Talk about scaring a child into obedience. Then, as the story goes, Jonah went to Nineveh and preached to the people and they all gave up their wicked ways and celebrated God’s love.
There is a little bit more to the story and this is what grabbed my heart and won’t let go. Jonah threw a fit about God’s love and how he wished he could just die because death would be better than forgiving his enemies.
I found myself quite annoyed with Jonah and his pity party. Why on earth would a man known for his faith be so upset when God, the creator of all things, shows love? Isn’t that why Jonah went after all? To tell the people that God loves them? Did he not have faith in the depth at witch these people needed to know their value in God’s eyes and, therefore, he thought maybe they would not change their ways? Maybe he thought when he finally decided to go to this wicked city, they would choose to keep doing what they wanted and he would some how be justified in his choice to not go in the first place. I don’t know why he behaved this way. I do recognize that he didn’t have the teachings of Jesus like we do. He didn’t have the Bible in every version at his finger tips like we do with all the stories guiding us to love like Jesus and to recognize that God’s love is not our own. That it can move mountains of hate out of it’s way and change the landscape of the hearts of people willing to be loved.
I can relate however, to the frustration of forgiving someone when I am still too hurt to move past what they have done, but shouldn’t I with all I know about love, be able to do it without throwing a fit?
Jonah’s lack of forgiveness and anger at God’s love was reminding me of something. Not just the similarities of Jonah and a lot of Christians today and the way they hope to be justified in their anger and hate towards the people that have wronged them, or that live a life quite different than their own. No, it was a thing deep within my being that was dark and I didn’t like the way it felt. I sat in my safe place with a fresh cup of coffee slowly breathing in and thinking it out. There was something deep in me that was dark and I needed to sit with this story for a while and figure it out.
As the breath came in and out of my lungs and the rush of truth flowed through my heart I found un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness clothed in anger, covered in pain and wrapped in a justified pity party.
I have been wounded, people I trusted have caused me pain. Pain that has buried itself deep down. There is a toxic use of words that has been passed from generation to generation and it landed on the core of my identity for years. Wounds passed from one broken heart to mine causing cracks that go deeper than I have yet to explore. People in my life have caused wounds so deep I got lost, lost in the lies and lost in the pain, but does that mean I should join Jonah in his “life isn’t worth living if they get grace for their sins” tantrum?
I have always loved the fact that when Christ gave his life for the sins of the world, there next to him was a sinner asking for forgiveness as he was dying. It doesn’t get much more last minute than that. Yet no one writing about the events of that day recorded that there was an annoyed look on Christ’s face when he forgave the sinner. Only that he forgave and they lived out the last moments of their time on earth together. This tells my heart that Christ’s love for me cleans and purifies all the hate and anger. All the past wrongs and future woundings. All the sins I have desperately begged for forgiveness for are covered by love and grace. However, reading about Jonah’s fit I realized I get rather pissed off that his love will do the same for the people I have been wounded by over and over again. That’s hard to write out loud because it’s harder to come clean over than I thought. I have a tendency to forget how loved I am, how so many people will rise to fight for me and with me, but sadly, I can easily recall what has caused me pain or fear or the moments marked with a reason not to trust someone again.
I am a life in progress. I want to love in a different way. I want to love with an open heart to forgiving the people that have hurt me to my core and understanding that what they did was real and not okay, but they are also living and breathing humans just like me.
I am not a perfect person, I have hurt people and done things that have most likely caused people to not trust me. If I want God’s love and forgiveness for my woundings, if I want his love when I am having a rough day and I start to self destruct and hate the very thought of who I am, shouldn’t I be thrilled that he loves us all so uniquely and he doesn’t weigh the hateful actions to decide if they are worth forgiveness?
I have found that I don’t like it when I scroll through social media and I come across a wounder of my heart and the color of my day starts to darken. I am pained by the path my mind will take before my heart has a moment to remember that their humanity and God’s love are woven together no matter what they have done to me.
I will always keep a guard up when trust doesn’t come naturally with people. However, now when I get the feeling down deep that someone or some situation can’t be trusted, or I see a wounder of my heart receive forgiveness, I hope to cover it in prayer and observe not only the person but the feelings. Having faith, that when my humanity runs away, throwing a fit, my God and his unfailing love will stop it and I can rest knowing that hurt will only cause more hurt, and love will always spread more love. I can’t keep up this pity party of hate and anger that comes crashing in and ruining my day just because God’s love is all he said it is going to be. I have to shut down the pity party and take refuge recognizing that my own forgiveness is free and so is theirs.
I know it’s not going to be easy, in fact just writing out that I want to put an end to it makes the anger start stomping around inside of me. It’s hard to love someone you feel so hurt by, but I’ll be honest, I would much rather love like Jesus loves, than hate like I hate.
May you be full of love and forgiveness