The Phonetics of Forgiving

Forgive blocks and hands

And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
Mt. 6:12 NKJV

I’ve heard Martha say (many times), “It’s all relinquishment.” I understood her, but only a little. That’s part of a pattern with me (and probably more than a few others). I grasp a spiritual principle, like forgiveness, and move on – only to find myself coming back around again. But each pass goes a little deeper and I find that I see a little farther each time. So when I recently heard Martha talking again about relinquishment, I was grateful to see something new.

To relinquish is to yield, “to give over possession or control of” something (or someone). And relinquishment really IS the entirety of the Christian life! It’s permanently on my “To-Do” list until I leave this world. But what I saw in a whole new way was the role of forgiveness in relation to relinquishment.

Forgiveness is to relinquishment as phonetics is to reading—the foundational first step. God perfectly incentivized the principle of forgiveness. I am forgiven only insofar as I forgive. If I refuse to let go of hurts or offenses, then the hurt and offense that I’ve inflicted on others will be held against me. It’s so perfect! If we don’t grasp and put into practice the principle of forgiveness, then we go no further. It’s done. Over. Forgiving others is the very LEAST that is expected of me. I’m not doing anyone a favor by forgiving them, I’m simply making sure that I’m not sent back to the starting line.

Forgiveness is the first level of surrender, of yielding, that we experience when we’re born again. It isn’t easy to let go of hurts, especially the BIG hurts, so God is kind to show us the big hurts that WE have looming over us. It isn’t noble to forgive. God really had to pound that one into me, because I felt very much like a longsuffering martyr for giving up my right to payback, snide comments, or just plain superiority. What a true paragon of virtue I am! That lasted until I was willing to look at the truth of my heart and begin to see my life as God saw it. Far from noble, forgiving is the most selfish thing I do. I can’t bear the weight of my sin, so I forgive. Simple as that.

Thing is, I realized that the deeper and higher relinquishment that God calls us to will never come without the foundation of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the principle that God uses to break us in, to bring us to the place of spiritual maturity such that the deeper, harder surrenders can begin. We learn to let go of the pain, to surrender to the story written on our lives, so that God can take us past the starting line and into the destiny He has for us.

Almost every day brings something new (even if it’s old) for me to forgive. Just last night, I stumbled across a ministry website and the pastor’s bio caused me to erupt in a fountain of rage. If he’d been standing in front of me, I’d have grabbed the biggest Bible I could find and done my best to beat him to a bloody, puling pulp with it. “How do YOU like being beaten by the Word, you diabolical dung heap?! Ich hasse dich!” Now, it’s pretty clear that a button of mine was pushed, but God didn’t push it so that I could count to 10 and walk it off. He pushed to show me a hurt that I still hold. So I let Him show me what I hadn’t yet seen, and came back around to the well-worn square one of all my dealings with the Father. Would I forgive? Or would I throw my life away to nurse an old wound in rage and bitterness? Not much of a choice, maybe, but it IS a choice.

I take heart after every such dealing because I see it as a kind of training, a practice-ground to learn on before the bigger, bloodier and scarier battles are waged. We are prepared, one day at a time, for all that God requires of us. And I find it comforting to see forgiveness in light of this preparation.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Psalm 32:1

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    • Sam

      Jen, some of your sentences here are plainly amazing. Thank you so much. You are beloved of Him.

    • Sam

      “It isn’t noble to forgive.”

      Quite amazing sentence. Children came to mind.

      I work with children… and with adults (that means I also “work” with myself, ah!). Childrens are masters of forgiveness. Even when they are “deeply hurt” (what we could call that), they live the moment of hurt. Some protest and yell… the right now. Others just seem ignore the hurt, like untouched.

      In any case, I believe somehow children do not own their own hurt, that’s their secret. Tomorrow they just live in another place altogether. The new day is a new place for them.

      No wonder “theirs” is the Kingdom.

      • Sam

        Oh, gee. I think this could be misunderstood. When I say “deeply hurt” I am talking of things we adults get so mad at. Have you ever seen a child smacking another one just to “rob” him/her pencil (I work in a school)?

        I mean, every day I see children “suffering” (it is a level of suffering) at the hands of other children (because they are so many times very cruel), and I say to myself… as an adult I would keep resentment against that other one forever.

        But they (usually 99%) forgive and forget.


    • Pauline

      “We are prepared, one day at a time, for all that God requires of us.” And I’ve heard it said (I think by Martha, could be wrong)that surrender is one surrender at a time. It really is comforting, Jennifer, ’cause I can’t do the big stuff all at once. I can’t do anything in my own strength, EVER. Finally settling into that: I am weak – and it’s OK since it’s not about me.
      Thank you, Jennifer. Love.

    • Cindy Pollard

      A very timely word. Thanks Jen.

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