I don’t talk about my previous marriage that much anymore. In fact, many of you may not even realize that I wasn’t always married to the wonderful man I am now. I have an ex-husband, and I’ve been divorced. I don’t talk about it much presently because it’s a pain I’ve moved past, or rather God has redeemed me, healed me, and given me a new life. But last night as I considered the topic I wanted to write about this seemed like the perfect example.
I can still recall one Tuesday night sitting with a group of women from my church. We were discussing forgiveness, and at that moment my heart was completely wrecked. I cried snotty tears to the ladies around me as I confessed, “I hate him! I just hate him!”
It hadn’t started as hate, as I suppose most feelings evolve over time. When my ex-husband first came home and told me he didn’t love me anymore I didn’t hate him; I was hurt, and I suppose that’s how most hate forms. It arrives on the wings of hurt. That night that I cried out for prayer from my friends at church was probably eight years past the day he came home and shattered my false reality that all was well, and in that time I had been through every emotion possible. I had been through devastation that my marriage was falling apart, and then an acceptance that I couldn’t change things or make him happy. I had gone through a period of being friends, being cool, and moving on all nonchalant. Then I had also gone through a period of eye-opening where I not only realized my own faults, but also finally saw clearly just how unhealthy our relationship had been. Somewhere in between the rediscovery of my own self-worth and the regret of past decisions made I became angry at him. Then as time continued my realization of a contaminated marriage, coupled with a lack of relationship with Jesus that I had dwelled in, I just got more and more mad. It wasn’t right, but somehow my heart filled with hate for this man. In my eyes he had hurt me, rejected me, and wasted years of my life that I couldn’t get back. There was more to it than that, but bringing up the specifics now of how I felt wronged and wounded would serve no purpose other than to reopen the cuts I have prayed hard to close. The point is, after years of trying to move on I was stuck in a rut of unforgiveness.
Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
As I work each day to draw closer to the Lord and to see the world with His eyes I understand even more the importance of love. We are called not only to love those easy to love, but to love even the seemingly unlovable. So when I find myself in a situation where someone hurts me I try to see them as Jesus does. I try to look at them with Kingdom eyes. So, for example, when another woman says something hurtful to me I try to understand what she must have gone through that has made her desire to lash out at others. I’ve come to understand through the years that it’s okay to love from a distance. So when Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to forgive those who have hurt us, He’s not saying we have to invite them over for dinner and share a great conversation at the table, but we are called to love them nonetheless. We are called to not harbor anger or hate in our hearts. We’re called to let go of our pain, let go of how we have been wronged, and let God sort it out.
I realized that evening in church when I cried out to the other ladies of the congregation that I was only hurting myself further by holding on to anger and pain. My unforgiveness was holding me back from God’s best for me. I was no longer in a place where I could love this man as my husband, but I did need to love him as a fellow creation of my Father. So I do. It feels good to let hurt go and to give it to the ultimate healer of our hearts. When we harbor anger, especially that born of pain, we allow an invisible wedge between the Father and us. Only in our forgiveness can we truly move forward, and only when we see with the eyes of Jesus can we look past our own hurt and heal.