Forgiving Too Fast
When I was in high school, I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I was entering into that rite of passage every teenager fears; I was getting braces. According to the orthodontist, I had too many teeth for my mouth, and the easiest way to solve the problem was to remove my wisdom teeth before they grew in. This meant I would have to go to an oral surgeon instead of a regular dentist.
When my mom and dad took me to the oral surgeon, he told me to just relax as I slipped into the la-la land of anesthesia. I woke up with my mouth packed with cotton and spitting blood. I was told this was normal. They also told me to expect a little discomfort. They told me it was to be expected, but I never expected to be this miserable.
Everything was “normal” and “expected” until I woke up three days later and looked in the mirror to see myself looking as if I was trying to swallow a golf ball. My jaw was about five times its normal size, and my lip was pulling to the right.
My mom rushed me back to the oral surgeon who looked at me and said something I’ve never forgotten. “Mike, you healed too fast.” When I asked him what he meant, he said the gum tissue where he had made the incision had closed before the wound could totally drain. When that happened, the bacteria were trapped causing a major infection. The surgeon had to reopen the wound and allow the junk to drain out so my jaw could heal. That was as unpleasant as it sounds.
I’ve ended up retelling that story a lot—especially to my friends who have been wounded and hurt. They want to forgive. They want to deal with it, move on, and get past the pain. In their rush to get over it, they heal too fast and trap the anger, bitterness, and hurt inside before it can drain out. Just like our bodies, our souls can get infected. If we fail to properly treat our wounds, the anger, embarrassment, and hurt will fester into bitterness and despair.
Let’s be honest. Most of us misunderstand biblical forgiveness. We’re told we have to forgive. Forgiving each other is a direct command from Jesus. So, when someone wounds us, we say, “I forgive you,” and then we try to move on as if nothing has happened.
That’s not forgiveness. That’s evasion. That kind of superficial response doesn’t heal the wound nor help the one who committed the offense. To act as if nothing happened doesn’t mean nothing did happen. Something did happen, and now we must deal with it.
We begin with ruthless honesty. We confess that someone’s actions or words hurt us. We don’t brush it off. We don’t ignore it. This is our pain. We own it.
Secondly, we release the person who hurt us from the expectation they can fix what they did. They can’t. Let me explain. I’ve been married for almost 38 years, and that’s long enough for me to say or do something stupid that hurts my wife. When I realize what I’ve done, I apologize over and over, but as much as I apologize, I can’t take the pain out of her life. It’s now her pain, and she’ll have to deal with it.
And we deal with our pain in prayer. I’m not talking about “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. I mean prayers that are ruthless in their honesty. We say, “Jesus, I’m hurt…” and “Jesus, I’m angry…” and in those honest prayers, allow Jesus to do what only Jesus can do—heal. Only Jesus can release the bitterness and anger in our wounded souls so they do not fester into a life-threatening infection.
As you can imagine, this takes a little while. Forgiveness isn’t easy nor is it fast. I’m always a little suspect when someone tells me they’ve forgiven someone without being able to tell me about the deep soul work that true forgiveness requires. When we forgive, we always learn something about ourselves. Such as, “What was at stake for me? What was threatened? Why did that remark hurt like it did?”
More times than not, Jesus will use these moments to expose little idols we’ve set up in our lives. Our reaction exposed their presence, and in His healing, Jesus removes these idols from our lives. What idols? Our own egos for one, false impressions of ourselves for another, but you get the idea. Our Savior is so merciful and good He always uses those things meant to harm us for our own good.
Do not rush through this process, but in prayer and worship, trust Jesus to do His work. Remember, Jesus is working not only in your life, but in the life of the one who wounded you. That’s why we love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. Jesus is healing us, replacing our pain with His love, and in doing so, loving the person who hurt us through us.
I know. It doesn’t make any sense that we would love the person who hurt us more after they hurt us, but it’s the way Jesus works. Remember Joseph? Betrayed and sold into slavery, but he broke down in overwhelming love and compassion for the very brothers who wounded him. How many martyrs prayed for their tormentors and even loved those who were executing them?
It’s hard to understand and harder to explain. Forgiveness is a God thing.
So, if you’re wounded, don’t be afraid of forgiveness. It’s the way God will work in you and through you for His good purposes. Trust God. Trust His process. Forgive your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. Remember, forgiveness is a God thing.