“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4 (The Message)
A friend and I were talking about forgiveness. She was talking about her frustration with herself. She had chosen to forgive someone, thought she had forgiven him/her, and yet, thoughts and conversations kept coming to mind at random times and she was finding it hard to “let go”.
It was easy for me to empathize with her because I struggle in those same areas. I believe God gave me the following analogy to help encourage her and maybe it will encourage you as well, if you are dealing with the struggle of forgiving someone in your life, and truly releasing the hurt once and for all.
First and foremost, I need to make the decision to forgive. That is a choice I make with my head, I say with my mouth and eventually it makes it way down to my heart. After that decision has been followed through with comes the hard part – walking that forgiveness out on a daily basis. I believe the degree to which a person struggles in this area depends upon the degree of hurt that has been (or continues to be) experienced.
Think of the act of complete forgiveness from the perspective of being burned. This past school year I was making muffins that had hot jelly in them. I was hurrying to get them plated and accidentally touched the hot jelly with my finger. The sting was so severe (hot jelly sticks to one’s finger),and my automatic response was to “put my finger in my mouth to cool it down.” However, I missed my mouth and ended up with jelly sticking to the space above my upper lip but below my nose. I ended up with blisters on my finger and on my upper lip for over a week because the degree of the burn inflicted that type of injury. These are the types of offenses that hurt, but are one-time offenses and once they are “healed,” the pain is over. It is done.
However, second-, third- or fourth-degree burns have a much longer healing process. Approximately five years ago I traveled to New Jersey with my family and suffered third- or fourth-degree burns from sunbathing. It was so severe I couldn’t stand to have any clothing covering it up and I developed blisters that lasted several weeks. The rest of the summer, that area of skin remained pink and I couldn’t risk exposing it to the sun at all. Years later, it still burns quicker than any other area of my skin and I have to be ultracareful to protect it to a greater degree than the rest of my body because the damage that was done in the past still has residual effects.
It is similar with hurts that cut deep, sting on contact, continue to burn after the exposure has been removed and remain sensitive to continual exposure. These hurts can be forgiven and completely healed (it’s a choice as stated above) but run the risk of being re-burned if re-exposed to the same heat (hurtful situations).
While I believe a person can forgive each degree of “burn” they receive, some burns (hurts) need more attention to stay forgiven. If a person is continually re-exposed to the hurtful situation, it might be time to talk to a professional about putting up healthy boundaries for that sensitive area in his/her life.
The degree of the hurt (burn) doesn’t determine whether or not one can choose to forgive. God commands us to forgive others of all offenses. Walking out that forgiveness is sometimes a daily choice with the burns that are more severe than those that only scratch the surface. My friend’s frustration above (as well as my own) wasn’t about not wanting to forgive, it was more about continuing to choose to ignore the promptings of the enemy to revisit the hurts and instead choose to train our thoughts on praising God, not focusing on past hurts.
The less we focus on the burn and the more we focus on God’s blessings, the faster the burns will heal with less residual sensitivity. Healthy boundaries are important as well – and sometimes talking to a Christian professional about how to put healthy boundaries in place helps to give the burn time to heal once and for all.
#degreeofburn #SpokenfromtheHeart #forgivessnessisachoice
© Cheri Swalwell 2018