"25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]:Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,27 and do not give the devil a foothold.28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:25-32.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, there are rarely -- if ever -- times when I attend church and don't come away feeling that I was meant to be there -- to receive the message and once again be reminded that He is almost always speaking to me. (Maybe I just listen/hear Him better while I'm at church -- after all, being still and quiet is sort of an ingrained part of the churchgoing process. Besides, surfing Facebook during the worship service just seems uber tacky.) Because of this, I've gotten in the habit of walking in with a particular question on my heart. Whatever is weighing on me -- I bring it there and hold it out, like Zuzu's petals, for God to "paste it," and make it better; make me whole. I don't know why it still surprises me -- but He always does.
Lately, a couple different concerns have been weighing on me, but both have to do with loss -- loss of people who matter to me, to be precise. There are different ways we lose people -- sometimes to death, sometimes to anger or betrayal, sometimes just to drift. But loss is loss and the closer the tie to the person, the greater the hurt when we lose them, particularly when it's abrupt and/or unexpected. I've been carrying a good deal of hurt with me over several people who've chosen to exit stage left in recent months. It's left me feeling very small and not valued. And I've been trying to figure out how to get past it.
Just letting go of it and walking away isn't really my way. Usually, my instinct is to attempt to mend fences, but in order to do that, I know I need to get past the point where I feel compelled to plead my case; to explain how I've been "wronged" and how and why I didn't "deserve" it. Problem is...I've been stuck there for awhile, and haven't been able to move on to that "It doesn't matter who's right or wrong; what matters is the relationship with this person" phase. So when I realized today's theme was "forgiveness," I thought, "Oh, boy - here we go."
As it turned out, the message was about more than just forgiveness. If I had to sum it up succinctly, I'd say it's about walking the walk. But forgiveness is a crucial component of that -- God's forgiveness of our sins and, in turn, our forgiveness of one another. Towards the end of the message, the Pastor encouraged us to seek out those we need to forgive -- to start figuring out how to get to that place. ("Great," I thought, "That's what I've been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do.") But then, he added another dimension to it and encouraged us to seek out those from whom we need to seek forgiveness.
I was still mulling this over as I drove away, and it suddenly hit me: I've been so focused on forgiving, I've forgotten I need to be forgiven. Maybe I need to shift my focus to that, in order to get to where I need to be. So I'm putting this out there, and I'm asking any and all - if I've let you down; if I've hurt you, please forgive me. If there's something I can do to make it right, tell me. And if you're still not there yet, know that I'll be right here when you are.
There are people in your life who've come and gone;
They've let you down, you know they've hurt your pride.
You'd better put it all behind you, baby, cuz life goes on;
You keep carryin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside.
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter.
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore. - Don Henley