This week’s first guest blog is anonymous contribution, written from the heart in response to our peacemaking challenge. It’s gut-wrenchingly honest, and it makes a vital point.
This has probably happened to any person in a position of responsibility within a church: someone in the church had complained about the youth work I was doing. Complained strongly. I won’t go into to the ins and outs of the situation but in short, it hurt; it was handled badly by everyone involved and I came out a very bitter and angry person carrying a lot of hurt and pain.
I’m still at the same church and doing the same job but it was a long road to recovery. Forgiveness isn’t easy. I think this is why Jesus challenges us to forgive so many times. Not just because an individual may keep sinning, but because we keep needing to forgive.
I kept thinking to myself, “I’m over this, I’m good, I’ve forgiven”. And then I’d see the person again and the anger would come back – and the hatred – and I’d have to stop and refocus and return to God and say “help me to forgive, again”. I couldn’t just forgive once and move on, it took a long time before I could see the individuals and feel peaceful about our relationships. In fact, there are still times, even several years after, when I’m feeling weak and vulnerable that feelings can re-emerge and I have to remember and forgive all over again. However, I am now in a place where relationships have been restored and I am actually working with those who did complain.
Being a peacemaker isn’t easy. Sometimes it involves swallowing your pride and admitting that even though you may be the injured party it’s still possible to be in the wrong. It involves recognising that forgiveness goes both ways. That grace isn’t limited. That if Jesus forgives us, who are we to withhold it from those around us?
Also, not forgiving just isn’t an option. For a while I didn’t forgive and I just carried around this black ball of pain and hurt. Every time I was in church it was there, every time I did youth work it was there and it just ate away at me and at my relationships. My refusal to forgive nearly ended up causing just as much pain as the original complaint. I don’t think we were designed as creatures to hold a grudge. You never hear of anything positive coming out of grudge holding or refusing to forgive; just more pain and more hurt and more darkness.
So I agree wholeheartedly with Jamie’s words in the original challenge set. We need to bring light. We need to bring forgiveness. And not just once, but over and over and over again until we can truly say we have forgiven.
It’s not easy, but it is necessary.