Recently some friends and I got to talking about forgiveness. A couple of them had been through some extremely tough trials as a result of another person's sin. Forgiveness, whether offered or declined, would be a major theme in their lives.
That conversation made me think about my life and how I've never had to forgive an offense that great. In fact, I've been struggling to forgive something so very small and ridiculous in comparison. Every day for the last four months I've mentally punished someone for wronging me. It happens every day during this exact time - when my kids are asleep and the house is still and quiet. I jump in the shower or bathtub to get clean, but ironically my thoughts turn to mud. I become mentally consumed with how this person has not done what they said they'd do. I consider all the things I could say to them to make them feel bad enough to come through for me. I invent passive aggressive threats that might do the trick. It has been exhausting. Any kind of mental bombardment just takes away your joy.
Do you want to know what this whole pathetic emotional hoopla was about? At the very end of November, 2008, I emailed someone about painting canvas letters for Annabeth's nursery. I don't know her, but I'd ordered letters from her for Jackson's nursery back in 2006 and I loved them. I heard back from her in early December and we got the details squared away. She requested payment in early January and I promptly paid. I knew the process would take 10 weeks, but I was prepared to wait. They were worth it! If I counted from my first contact with her, they would arrive in early February. If I counted from when she requested payment, they would arrived mid-March.
Long story short, they still haven't arrived. Supposedly they were shipped to the address where we lived two homes ago (in Irving). Whoever lives there now accepted the delivery, so there was no getting the package back. The letters were supposedly then repainted and sent to me again. Only they never arrived. I've had no tracking number, very limited communication by email, excuses, changing stories, and nothing that would allow me to take matters into my own hands and figure out how to get my package.
I've said so many prayers about those letters. I've even tried to figure out how to make God send them to me. For example, I remembered that I should pray for my "enemies." So I prayed for this woman. God knows my heart though. I tried to be sincere, but instead of being truly concerned for her, I really just wanted to manipulate God into giving me my stuff.
I have driven myself nuts this whole year. Every single day I've thought, "Maybe they'll come today!" or "Maybe I'll have the letters up and the nursery finished by the time _______." Fill in the blank. The baby's born? Nope. The in-laws visit? Nope. All my friends come to see the baby throughout the spring? Nope. Kelly's Korner has the Tour of Nurseries? Nope. In-laws visit again? Nope. I host bunko? Nope.
I've had to accept that they're not ever coming. And by "accept" I mean that I told the artist that if I didn't have a refund or a tracking number by such-and-such date, I would contact PayPal for my refund. After waiting a week longer than I stated in my threat, I was finally done with the polite, but direct emails and ready to take action.
I issued a claim with PayPal. I felt empowered. I was exacting justice! Immediately after I hit send, I got a notice from PayPal stating that nothing could be done for me. The deadline for that had passed after 40 days of the financial transaction. Awesome. My threats had been empty. I'd had no power all along. I was deflated, defeated, and mad.
That night I met with my friends and we had that whole conversation about forgiveness - major life forgiveness. This question came to my mind: If I cannot forgive this woman and just move on...If I cannot let her off the hook for the $111 and all the emotional letdown...If I cannot be wise enough to see that this anger is only hurting me and not doing a single thing to her...how can I expect that I will ever be able to forgive someone for really hurting me or someone I love? What is more, if I know that Jesus Christ has forgiven me for the disgusting, filthy, depraved sin that once made me his enemy, how can I really hold on to this grudge? Over canvas letters? Really, Amanda?
I resolved that I would write to the woman and tell her that while I'm disappointed that I never got my letters, I was going to drop the whole thing. I wouldn't ask for a refund. I wouldn't try to punish her emotionally. I would forgive her and move on. Not only to bless her, but to set myself free! Sweet, sweet freedom from these stupid, tormenting thoughts! I might lose $111, but I would gain rich blessings for my soul. I would extend grace, just as Christ has extended it to me. He paid oh so dearly to do it.
I opened up my computer to draft the email and what do you think happened? There was an email from the seller. My PayPal claim had gone through after all. Subject line: YOU HAVE YOUR MONEY!
Do you think I felt better? Do you think I had peace and joy? Do you think I felt like I had showered and bathed in the beautiful grace and mercy of Jesus? Do you think I felt noble? Do you think I clapped my hands or pumped my fist in the air?
I had every right to do what I did.
But there had been a more excellent way. And I didn't take it.
Now I have $111 sitting in my PayPal account. I honestly have no idea how to use it or even what to spend it on. Whatever it is will have come at a price. I had a chance to cloak myself in my Savior's beauty and be gracious and forgiving - a chance I didn't take.
It's been a week and by now I've let the whole thing fall off my shoulders. I'm no longer carrying the burden, one way or another. It's over and God has truly let me release it. But I will not forget this experience.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.