21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. - Matthew 18:21-22
We all have a wound from our past that holds us back. A hurtful word, and unexpected betrayal, an abusive relationship that haunts us and creates barriers in our current relationships. Everyone has obstacles or strongholds formed by hurts from our past that grow to define us and determine our responses. We are all the product of our experiences from living in this broken world full of sin. We are all guarded in certain areas, protecting deep wounds from our past encounters with other people’s sin. This guarding is dangerous because it often manifests itself in sinful actions toward others. Example – we have been hurt deeply in a past abusive marriage so our expectations for the new marriage is that our new spouse will protect us from any hurt. When that person fails to protect us in the manner we expect, we rise up in anger – a sinful response to an expectation from a place we’re guarding in our heart, originally caused by someone else’s sin.
Knowing that truth should cause us all to see those around us differently. When we understand everyone has something that holds him or her back, it should helps us to be more patient with those around us. The person who offended us has hurtful experiences from their past that shaped them and formed the response that hurt you. Far too often, people do not operate from a place of thinking about how their actions will impact other people, they operate from a place of their own internal monologue that has been shaped by their experiences in life. We cannot change that in other people, but we can change that in us. We don’t have to hold on to our past hurts. We can let them go.
One of the most powerful teachings I’ve ever received on forgiveness came from these simple words, “Don’t keep people locked in a box”. My lack of forgiveness kept people frozen in time of who they were in the moment they hurt me. God has been working on refining me for years. I allowed the moment, or series of moments, define who they are for the rest of time. When I think about who I was 10 years ago, a year ago, or even a few short months ago, I shudder at my selfishness. He has grown me and tenderized me in incredible ways by exposing little pieces on my heart one trial at a time. He’s revealed family strongholds and deeply rooted sins that I’ve carried around completely unaware. God has changed me because of what He has allowed me to walk through, but it didn’t happen over night. God has chiseled away at the dark places and the selfish behavior one small piece at a time. As I see my self-focus and pride falling away, I grow in my understanding of how much more work He still has to do on my heart. I would never want someone to keep me locked in the box of who I was in the moment I offended them. I’m not that person anymore because He continues to refine me, every day, through every trial. How incredibly prideful to think God isn’t doing the exact same thing in someone else’s heart? God doesn’t have those people locked in a box, He sees the potential of who they could be and continues to work on them as He works on me.
Spend a moment in quiet reflection and think of your mistakes - times you lashed out with hurtful words, or damaged a relationship with your actions. We’ve all done it - we’ve all had bad days and taken it out on others, we’ve all let the anxieties we’re dealing with in our heads impact the way we communicate, we’ve all been wrapped up in selfishness in such a way that we don’t care to even see how our actions impact someone else. We’ve all done things we need to apologize for. You’re a different person now than you were in those moments. Even if one of those moments happened only yesterday, God is changing you through that experience. You wouldn’t want the person you offended to keep you locked in the box of who you were yesterday, in your worst possible moment. Don’t keep people in your life locked in a box of who they were when they offended you. Give them the space and the grace to continue to change - God is still at work.
We are shaped by our experiences, and the truth is many of us have been shaped far greater by the negative experiences in our lives than the good ones. The only way forward is forgiveness. We need to let go of the pain and hurt we hold on to. Release the hurt that keeps you nursing the wound. The Messiah is coming in a few short days, and He desires for your heart to be cleaned.
To prepare my heart, I am searching for places I need to forgive. Our hearts can be deceiving in this area, especially when we know we should not carry unforgiveness with us. We hide it and convince ourselves that we’ve let it go, but we know if that person were to walk into the room, negative feelings would surface quickly. I am asking God to reveal any places that unforgiveness still exists in my heart so I can root it out, then I am specifically praying blessings for the people God brings to mind. I’ve found when I need to forgive someone, praying specifically for that person softens my heart and grows my compassion for them. I don’t pray that God changes them, I just pray for His presence and blessing in their lives. God has revealed incredible things in these moments - He’s changed my viewpoint, revealed my sin, and opened my eyes to their perspective....and through it, He’s preparing my heart to welcome the King.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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