Forgiveness in the Progress by Rachel Polanco
Yeah, I just messed up big time by saying that to her. I can tell how much it upset her. But apologizing right now will only make things worse; there’s going to be yelling if we continue this conversation. God, this is the fifth time this week I haven’t kept watch on the things coming out of my mouth!
My frustration boils over into one single, unvoiced but potent thought:
I need to stop asking for forgiveness from God until I get this right.
There’s a limit to how often God will forgive me for the same exact sin, after all. Getting caught in it again and again just shows I don’t want to change it enough, that I’m not trying hard enough…
Eventually he’ll get impatient and snap at me, like how I get impatient and snap at customers when I’m feeling extra-tired, or how I get stuck in a thought loop until I become convinced that someone has gone out of their way to do something to ruin my day – instead of simply making a mistake.
It’s like I’ve never read the psalm,
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12, ESV
I’ve known this psalm for what feels like most of my life. I thought I understood it. Turns out, I had a long way to go – that “run and hide” reaction I was having was evidence of it. I was convinced that it says he will chide, even if he won’t always – and he’ll be angry, just not forever. I decided that meant he would be angry and chide until I fixed the problem myself.
It’s taken a year of deliberate work with caring friends and a therapist to help me realize I’ve been cutting myself off from the love of those around me, especially their forgiveness and acceptance. They’ve been doing it all along! But somehow, I’d kept myself from seeing it. Deliberate mentorship with a mature Christian has helped show me through example what it looks like to repent without destroying myself, too, and how to press on through the “thorns in our sides”.
Slowly but surely, I began to understand what I hadn’t before:
My sisters and brothers forgive me “seventy times seven” times, as they are commanded, as I struggle and strive to do. Forgiveness and grace aren’t just abstract concepts that describe how we get into heaven. They’re actual, concrete actions that people do, and those actions bring freedom.
How much had I been shorting God’s love, grace, and forgiveness for me?
If my fallen, sinful friends (no more fallen and sinful than I am) can show me abounding grace, how much more can God?
If my church family can love me as I am (while encouraging me to grow), how much more can my heavenly Father?
I wish I could say that realizing all this has fixed my problems with receiving love; I’ve made headway, but there’s a long way to go. I also wish I could say that I don’t get short with customers and coworkers any longer! I definitely do, just like I struggle to show grace.
But it doesn’t crush me any longer. It convicts me to do better without destroying me in the process. Instead of running away from God in shame, I feel more confident in asking him into the situation, because I’m starting to wrap my head around the fact that he loves me just as much as he did before I did The Bad Thing, because he’s God and his love for me isn’t remotely dependent on me and what I do.
I mean, usually I remember. Sometimes I forget. Okay, I still forget a lot.
But we’re making progress.