Forgiveness does not come naturally to me.
I don’t let go of stuff easily. If I’m going to forgive, I have to fight for it. Pry my fingers off the offense. And then struggle to hold myself back so I don’t grab it again.
Many years ago, I had a friend who should have had my back, but stabbed me in the back instead. He was someone I worked with, someone I trusted. And he hurt me. Bad. He betrayed me, lied about me in ways that caused damage to my life and reputation but left his intact. And the respect and trust I had for him warped pretty quickly into a swirling mass of anger and hate and resentment…
I found myself thinking about him and what he had done to me. All. The. Time. I didn’t go around talking to everyone about what had happened, but with a couple of my closest, trusted friends, who helped me process stuff…the topic came up in most every conversation.
In bed at night, I’d lie awake imagining scenarios where he’d get what was coming to him. Where his betrayals would be exposed. Where I would be the hero and he would be defeated as the villain. Where God would torch the guy.
During the day, I found myself reworking what had happened over and over in my mind, trying to find the thing I could have done differently to keep it all from happening.
This went on for months.
The guy was consuming my life. And finally, I got sick of it. This person had stolen enough from me already. I didn’t want him stealing even more.
That’s when I began to consider if maybe forgiving the jerk might be an option.
Eventually, I did choose to forgive the guy. But ugh. It wasn’t like I made the decision and everything was magically better. I had a ton to work through and root out and grieve and–
At one point in the process, I had a dream about it.
I dreamed that I went for a walk from my home to a park. At the park, I found a crowd of people at an outdoor concert. Looking across the crowd, I caught sight of the person who had hurt me.
He saw me, too, this person. And because he and my husband, Steve, and I had all at one time been friends, I ended up inviting him back home with me for a visit.
Somehow Steve had anticipated a guest, and when we arrived at the house, I found the living room freshly picked up and vacuumed, and the kitchen and bathroom clean.
There was also a pie on the kitchen counter, so I asked our guest if he’d like a slice of pie and something to drink. He accepted the offer, and I headed into the kitchen to serve it up while he sat on the couch in the living room.
And that’s where I ran into problems. In the way of dreams, the simple task of putting a slice of pie on a plate became ridiculously daunting. I opened the cupboard to get a plate, and pulled out dirty dish after dirty dish. Seems that in his rush to prep for unexpected company, Steve had just shoved dirty plates from the counter into the cupboards.
So there I was, with this guest waiting in the living room. And I was searching for a clean plate, a clean cup. And I kept at it, determined to get the job done.
In my dream, I talked myself through the task. I found myself muttering, “When your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat. When your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink.” (This is a verse from the Bible, actually–Romans 12:20, NIV.)
That was my dream.
Here are my observations:
First off, I’m proud of myself that my ultimate goal in the dream was to get to the place where I could do an act of kindness for my enemy: get him a plate of pie and something to drink. And that I didn’t let go of that goal even in the face of obstacles.
Second, this dream vividly illustrates the kind of tenacity it sometimes takes to forgive a person. There are all kinds of obstacles in the way. You’ll pull out lots of dirty plates before you finally get to a clean one. It’s no simple task, getting to the place where you’ve worked through the forgiveness process enough to offer pie to your enemy.