I don’t struggle with forgiveness because the Psalms -particularly the ones scrawled by King David – are perfect for people like me who don’t get over things immediately or think loving thoughts of light and healing in the face of an ugliness and betrayal. The Psalms assure me that people who do wicked things? They. Are. Screwed. The Psalms are filled with reminders that God takes vengeance on our enemies so we don’t have to. David goes into great, specific detail – how they’ll fall into the pits they’ve dug to trap others, impale themselves on their own drawn swords, be chased by avenging angels and taken down by evil. There’s even one memorable Psalm that goes something like, “Kick in their teeth, Oh Lord.”
I can tell how I’m doing with forgiveness by how much want this to be true.
Part of my faith struggle is that I know I should forgive. Like, yesterday. But I can’t manufacture forgiveness. I can fake it. That just piles sin upon sin. The frustrating, messy truth is that for forgiveness to happen, I have to wait for God.
When I’m hurt or betrayed, I want to be part of the payback. It’s an ugly part of me, but it’s real. At the exact same time, I want to be a person of forgiveness. I want to GET OVER things rather than having them drag on and on. I mean, if Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” as they nailed him to a piece of wood, it follows that I should be able to choke out some version of “Jesus, I forgive X for Y,” when someone has hurt my feelings. And I can, at least in some fashion. I can say the words. I make myself, actually. Not because that Abracadabra! makes it so, but because it opens the door for God to work.
I try to remember the basics: that just is God is the only one who can bring redemptive vengeance, He is also the only one who makes forgiveness possible.
So from time to time, when I’m hurting from unresolved STUFF, I check in: Do I still want an avenging angel to come along and kick someone in the teeth?
If the answer is yes: I thank God that He allows for this prayer, and let fly with David’s Psalms like it’s my job.
But I also know that this is not the end of the story. How over time, if I let him, God will change my response. Eventually, a beautiful, strange day will come when I’ll realize that my answer is no, I do not want that angel to kick in his/her/their teeth. Rough them up a bit, perhaps. Take out their cable on the night of the Big Game or charge them with $1,ooo in overdue library books. But the teeth can stay.
When this happens, I usually end up looking at the sky (because that’s where God lives), and thinking, The Kingdom of God has come! It’s crazy when it happens to you, when the anger lifts and you’re free. It’s enough to make me apologize to God for ever doubting, and head out into my day more determined than ever to believe the Good News.