No Ordinary Forgiveness
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In our story, the affair gets all the attention, but what I (Trisha) have come to realize is that I had a forgiveness issue long before the affair. I had mastered the art of unforgiveness, and felt clueless about what true forgiveness looked like.
One of the questions we always get is, "How did Trisha ever forgive Justin? How in the world could she forgive him after what he did?" It is one of the most important questions you can ask, and one of the most amazing questions we have the honor of answering. After all, ordinary lives in resentment, but extraordinary lives in forgiveness.
Resentment can have such a grip on our hearts that we need to forgive often for our own healing. That is exactly what we realized as we walked through the cycle of forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard.
I attended counseling alone every day. Two weeks after we separated, Trisha called me for the first time. When I saw her name on my cell phone, my stomach flip-flopped. It was the first time I had heard her voice in fifteen days. I had no idea what to expect; I was just thankful for her call.
She was gentle. She was soft-spoken. She was open-minded. If the Prodigal Son's father had had a cell phone, this was the kind of call he would have made. She asked a few questions. She made a few statements. We both cried. She didn't make any promises—just an offer to go to counseling with me.
Two days later, we began counseling together. I hoped to be home by the end of October. Our counselor hoped to have me home by Christmas. It would be a long journey. For the next 30 days, Trisha and I went to counseling together every day but Friday. We followed up our counseling appointments with long conversations on the phone. Long e-mail exchanges. Long talks over coffee or at Red Lobster.
More important than those conversations were the time and conversations I had with God. Sadly, it had been years since I had read the Bible for any purpose other than preparing a message. It had been years since I had spent time praying for anything other than church growth, church people, and church problems. God's presence had never been more tangible. God's voice had never been clearer. God's Word had never carried more power to illuminate the sin and darkness in my heart.
Forgiveness is only true forgiveness when you forgive regardless of the person's response. Grace is unmerited favor, a gift offered with no strings attached. Forgiveness is a gift that flows from grace. In forgiveness, we give up our right to throw our stones in retaliation for the hurt the other has caused us.
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