“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
“Come with me” he says. “Come follow me.” “Come deeper with me.” “Trust me.” He tells me this constantly. He comes to me in my moments of despair, in my moments of weakness, and in my moments of great joy and tells me to come with him. To go with him to that place on Calvary where he died, because he has more to show me.
Then he takes me there. I am walking through the desert with him by my side. We walk up the hill of Calvary. At the top of the hill he points to the cross. There he is. He is on the cross. He is suffering. He is in so much pain and so much hurt. He is weak and wounded. The air is filled with a deep somber sense as if the entire world has been paused.
We walk up to the foot of the cross. I am standing right at the foot of the cross. His blood is pouring down on me. I can hear him, hear him struggling for breath, crying out. I see him looking up to heaven, to his father, wishing for relief, wishing all the pain he was experiencing would be taken away and healed. But although he hopes so dearly for the pain to go away, he courageously accepts the knowledge that God’s will and God’s plan is greater than his own human desire to never experience pain. He has perfect trust in God his Father and the plan that God has for him. He embraces his cross with a strength so unknown to this world.
Then He looks at me. He looks right at me. When I dare to look back up, directly into his eyes I feel as though I can see straight into his soul and he into mine. His eyes are full of pain. I can see every part of his body is in intense pain. I have never seen so much pain in my life. But although he is in great pain, there is something else in his eyes that overtakes the pain. There is love. There is love, great love in his eyes. It is a piercing love like I have never experienced before. A love so deep and so pure. It is a love for me. A love for my husband. A love for our children. A love for each and every person who has ever existed and who ever will exist in this world. This love in His eyes is the calm in the storm.
He doesn’t say anything to me while our eyes are locked but it is as if his gaze speaks directly to my soul. I can hear his soul speaking to mine and he says “I love you. You are a daughter of God and you are so deeply loved. You have so much immense worth. I have so much planned for you and it is greater than you could ever imagine. I forgive you for all that you have done and all that you will do. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. I love you. I love you exactly where you are, who you are, and no matter what you do. I will love you at every moment of every day for eternity. I want you to accept my love, to let me love you. But I want you to choose my love. I freely give my love to you at all times and through all things. I will love you if you accept my love, if you reject it, deny it, run from it, ignore it, or embrace it, because my love for you isn’t based on what you do, it is my conscious choice to love you no matter what. I love you with all that I have. I suffer for you. I rejoice for you and in you. I delight in you.”
When I feel his immense love for me I am paralyzed. I can’t move. I fall down. Fall straight on my knees with my face on the ground and my hands raised to heaven. I am overcome. Overcome with this love that I cannot understand. This love that is greater than any sin or anything in this world. This unconditional love like I have never experienced. This love that he pours down on me overtakes me. It overtakes every part of my being and fills my soul. It fills my soul with everything I could ever want and everything I could ever need. For the first time in my life I feel complete – I feel full – I feel alive – I feel like I am who I am meant to be, who I was made to be. I am so full of His love that all I want to do is give this love to others.
Then Jesus takes me up on the cross with him. He unites my suffering to his on the cross. And while I am up there I see everyone who has ever hurt me. I see them standing at the foot of the cross and I am looking down at them. Sometimes it is many people, sometimes just one person, and sometimes it is myself. Then he says to me “see them as I do. Look at them through my eyes.” He shows me how although I may be hurting, they are hurting too. He shows me how I have played a part in their suffering, pain, joy, and triumphs. It’s so humbling. He opens my eyes to see those in my life in the most incredible ways, to see how he sees them as His children who are so incredible, special, and important to the world in their own individual ways. For each one of us is a part of His body and as a part of His body has an integral role to play in the salvation of this world. But as He lets me see each person through His eyes, He also shows me how broken and hurt each one of them is. He always has me focus on my spouse in a particular way since He especially calls me to love my spouse as He loves.
He reminds me that He loves me for where I am in each moment. He shows me that although I have failed Him and hurt Him, He has never left my side. He gently reminds me that for all the times I have betrayed and hurt Him, He has forgiven me. He loves me in my imperfection and He wants me to love others in that same way. He wants me to meet those in my life where they are, for who they are, and embrace and encourage them to grow into who they were created to be because that is what He does for me. He sees who I should be, who I was created to be, and yet loves me when I fall short.
To help me love those who have hurt me, He fills me with the same love that He has them. He says to me that I am to forgive for any wrong or hurt that I have felt. And while I am up on the cross with him, all I want to do is forgive. All I want to do is pour out my love to them. All I want to do is offer up my suffering, my pain, and my love to God for their healing, their forgiveness, and their peace. All I want is to continue to pour out my love for them with all that I have forever and ever. All I want is to show them, to tell them how much I love them and to pick them up, embrace, and comfort them in their woundedness. All I want is show them how amazing they are, to show them how inspiring they are, to show them how loved they are. All I want is to take away all of their hurt, all of their pain, all of their suffering, all of their loneliness, all of their frustration, all of their confusion, all that is hurting them and all that is holding them back and replace it with love. All I want is for them to know their immense worth in the eyes of God. All I want to do is tell them how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged them. It’s amazing how much we all fall short and wrong those in our lives. While I am up on the cross looking down at them through His eyes, all I have is compassion, forgiveness, and love for them.
And while I am on the cross looking down with the same love for them in my heart that Christ has for me and my suffering united to his for the greater glory of God, He urges me to say these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Perhaps one of the hardest challenges we face is forgiving someone who has not apologized. What do you do when you have been hurt by another but they aren’t sorry and haven’t asked for your forgiveness?
I think the story of the prodigal son shows us how to respond. While the son left and squandered his father’s wealth, his father didn’t go out after him to tell him he was wrong. He didn’t seek out his son and expect his son to apologize. He didn’t angrily lash out and hold on to the bitterness he probably felt.
He stayed home.
He stayed home and prepared himself for the possibility that his son would return. During that time his son was away he must have been humbling himself, forgiving his son, and softening his heart so that when his son returned he could honestly hold out his arms, embrace his son, and rejoice in his return. He spent the time in between being wronged by his son and his son’s apology practicing forgiveness and getting his heart ready to be able to forgive his son if or when he returned home.
How often do we spend that time in between being wronged and receiving an apology allowing ourselves to soak in the bitter feelings, replaying the hurt we feel, and holding on to anger? How often do we refuse to forgive someone because they have not yet asked for our forgiveness? How often do we allow ourselves to be held prisoner by our feelings of hurt and anger instead of allowing our hearts to be softened by forgiving? How often do we seek out the person who has wronged us, tell them about how they wronged us, and want them to apologize? How often do we continually remind those who have wronged us of the things they have done to make them feel bad and remind them of their past mistakes?
How precious is it to spend time humbling yourself in forgiving another? What a greater gift can you give to another than being ready to honestly extend your forgiveness when they ask for it because you have already forgiven them in your heart? What spiritual effect might it have on a person to already be forgiven by you even if they don’t know it yet?
It is such a great act of humility to be wronged by someone and, before they have a chance to apologize to you, look at the cross and allow the reality of the cross to sink in. To look to the cross and realize that God knew all the times you would wrong him and yet he continually forgives you. It is in knowing that God forgives us that we can ask him to give us the grace to forgive, even to forgive those who are not sorry.
Our forgiveness changes lives. It changes our lives by making us humble and replacing hurt, anger, and bitterness with love and mercy. It changes others’ lives by extending grace and mercy.
You may never receive an apology, but in preparing yourself for the chance that it may come, you have freed both yourself and that person. Through your forgiveness you can then respond to them in the future out of love.
When that moment comes – when your forgiveness is asked for – will you have already forgiven them and will you be able to look them in the eye and say with all your heart “I forgive you”?
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you” (C.S. Lewis)
Forgiveness defies logic. It ignores our natural instincts. It is a priceless gift. It requires us to look outside ourselves and look to the cross. We must look at Christ who loves us no matter what.
In the moments when it feels impossible to forgive I have to look at the cross and allow myself to be humbled. I sit at his feet and look up in his eyes and see that his eyes see every sin I will ever commit. He knows every time I will ever deny him, abandon him, and hurt him, and yet all I see in his eyes is love. Love for me.
How incredible is it that he knew every time I would wrong him and yet loved me anyway?
How is it that I can receive that kind of love from him yet hold on to bitter feelings and hurt others have caused me?
When I see him on the cross I am reminded that I am called to forgive every wrong against me. I am to love without abandon – love unconditionally. Leave the justice up to God and forgive with a joyful heart.
After all – am I really opening myself to receive his great love if I don’t share that same love and forgiveness with those he has placed in my life?
The unspoken question we all ask in most of our daily interactions – do you love me?
We long for love, search for it, and pursue it. We wish to be reassured of how we are loved. We subconsciously know we need it. After all we were created with a void in our hearts that only God’s love can fill.
Christ patiently waits for us to love him. He continuously and endlessly pours out all his love for us. We can accept it or reject it, but it is always there. We can only experience it when we choose to accept it because God does not force his love on us.
Christ not only gives us his love, but he asks a challenging question of each of us – do you love me?
Christ is in each of us and is continually asking in every moment and every interaction that we have with others – do you love me? He asks us if we see him in everyone we meet. He asks us to treat others the way we would treat him because he is in them.
Jesus is radical – he tells us to love our enemies. How is this possible? Only by the grace of god and in seeing christ in our enemies.
Jesus asks his disciples – did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked ….. He asks those same questions of us and they all boil down to one simple question – for you love me?
If you look in others eyes you can constantly see Christ asking:
Do you love me to forgive those who wronged you?
Do you love me to go out of your way to make my day and be kind to me when you feel I don’t deserve it?
Do you love me to put aside your to do list and just be there for me?
Do you love me to help me with a project when you are tired?
Do you love me to give me a hug after a long day?
Do you love me to take care of me when I am sick?
Do you love me to stay by my side no matter what and care for me?
Do you love me to take some of my burdens?
Do you love me?
When I have been deeply hurt by someone it can be hard, but I always remind myself that God is in that person. I look I to their eyes and imagine that they are the eyes of Christ. How could I say, “no I do not love you” to Christ? How could I not do everything I can to show my love?
When I see a stranger who is clearly having a rough time do I see Christ in them and take a moment out of my busy day to ask what I can do and let them know I am there – they are not alone.
When there is a rift between me and my loved ones do I work to repair it and show my love?
Do I treat each moment and each interaction as an opportunity to answer Christ’s question – do you love me?
By answering that question and showing my love, I not only further the kingdom of heaven but I also become Christ’s agent to help fill that void that only Christ’s love can fill in each of us. I become his hands and his feet and have the grace to be Christ to that person, remind them how much Christ lives them, and be Christ’s love. What an incredible honor to be called to be God’s love, our deepest longing, to all those I see each day.
Two small words that too often are too hard to say and so inadequately describe how you feel and what you really want to express. They can be such an oversimplification of such a complicated and complex situation.
They work well for small offenses like accidentally bumping into someone on the street. But when you offend or hurt someone so deeply these two simple words – I’m sorry – don’t even come close to what you really want to say. Because the truth is no words can ever fully undo the damage caused or the hurt felt.
We use two small words to try and express apology, regret, remorse, determination to change, and so much more. How can two words summarize and encompass all those things?
I don’t think they truly can. Because sometimes you want to look at the person you hurt and say “I should have never said the things I did.” Or you wish to tell the person “I am disappointed in myself and cannot believe the person I turned into”. Sometimes you want to say “I made a mistake and I know it deeply hurt you and all I want to do is take away that pain that I caused you but I can’t figure out how”. Other times you want to say “I am changing and working to be a better person and I would really like the opportunity to show you who I am now.” All these sentiments and more are often summed up by saying “I’m sorry.”
The truth is words sometimes have a way of failing us. We use them to express what we are feeling and thinking, but too often the words we say don’t measure up to what is really going on inside. We do the best we can to express those feelings which is why we apologize and say I’m sorry to each other.
How do you respond when those words are said and you still feel hurt? There isn’t a good way to measure how sorry a person is. So is it an eye for an eye? Do you turn the other cheek? Do you hold on to your anger, bitterness, and resentment? Do you forgive?
It is so important to acknowledge the ways you have wronged your spouse, apologize, and work to do better. It is equally important to forgive your spouse and extend mercy even when it feels like it is not deserved, because God has extended unfailing mercy and forgiveness to each one of us even though we are so unworthy to receive it.
Most people know that simply saying the words I’m sorry doesn’t make up for their offense. A genuine apology also requires action and a determination to show remorse by making a conscious change and doing better in the future.
That change that takes place can then be accepted or rejected by the person who was wronged. Sometimes they might not even see the change if they are still holding onto bitter and angry feelings and can’t see past the hurt they feel. Hopefully that change after apologizing brings reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.
So why even say I’m sorry if it inadequately describes and cannot really express the deep sorrow and regret you feel? Because although it simplifies the complexities and doesn’t measure up to the hurt you caused, sometimes there isn’t much else you can do to try to heal the pain you caused, show you are holding yourself accountable for your actions, and try to do what you can to make it right moving forward. It is impossible to take back something that was said and done because it is in the past. All you can do is try to tell the person you wronged you are sorry, that you wish things had been different and that you are making a decision to do better in the future. “I’m sorry” doesn’t heal all wounds by itself, but it is a gesture and a step toward reconciliation and hopefully making things better in the future. It’s saying you want a fresh start and hoping for a second chance.
Why is it that we are so quick to dismiss and walk away from people in our lives who hurt us?
What would happen if we truly looked at our brothers and sisters as being one with us in the body of Christ? How would our responses to others change if we looked at each person in this world as a part of the body of Christ, where Christ is the head of the body and each one of us is a part of the body?
When I look at others through this lens, each person’s worth and value becomes so much greater. Not only are they my brother and sister, but they are integral in my salvation and my life. I begin to see how we were created to help each other and to work together.
If you think about the body, it is miraculous how all the parts of the body work together to keep you alive. Each part has a specific role and function unique to it. The body of Christ is the same way. Each one of us has a specific role to play based on the gifts and talents that God gave each of us. When each one of us uses our gifts to their potential and works together, the body of Christ is strong and healthy. However, sin and turning away from these gifts can cause a cancer in the body of Christ and our community.
It starts small, one small sin against a brother or sister, but since we are all connected it impacts the entire body in ways we cannot see.
Many times, our natural response to being wronged or hurt is to either seek revenge or cut that person out of our lives. However, God calls us to love everyone – even our enemies. He calls us to forgive and heal. I think the reason he says this is because we are so interdependent in ways that only God can see and understand.
But what if we think about it this way: If your wrist was broken, would you elect to have it amputated, would you seek revenge and make it worse, or would you work to heal the broken bone? Most would choose to heal the broken bone. If we believe we are one body and your brother or sister in Christ has done something to wrong you or is hurting in some way, shouldn’t we try to help heal the wrongdoing and therefore heal the entire body rather than cutting that person off or leaving them without aid?
What happens when we look at the world in this way? Does it change the way we interact with others?
This is why the family – marriage and parenting -are so important. They are a model for the world of this kind of oneness and love that we should have for everyone.
It starts small with loving, forgiving, and caring for your spouse. The two of you were joined and became one in marriage. So this type of oneness and unity in love is shown through your marriage. You work to heal wrong doings and preserve and strengthen your marriage. The marriage is the joining of two to become one team who respects, protects, supports, and heals each other. When mistakes are made and the relationship is injured, it requires healing and sometimes rehabilitation.
Then that same love you have with and for your spouse is extended to your family, your children. You love your children and they love you and together you all are a unit, a family, and you care for, protect, and love each other through healing forgiveness and mercy when one of you is hurting. Because if one of your family members is hurting, you all are affected.
This love is further extended to all you meet in the body of Christ for we are all connected through him.
Are we ready and willing to heal the wounds and hurts in the body of Christ? I think it starts with focusing healing yourself, then your marriage and family, and then extending that to the world.