I tend to become irritated by the small things in life: The teacher who doesn’t really teach, the friend who steals your keys as a practical joke, or the small fact I shouldn’t have blurted out yesterday. God has been working on helping me with the small things my entire life. Grudges have always come easily to me. Sometimes I lose the grudge as fast as I gained it, other times I wallow in self-pity. God is constantly teaching me to change the way I act and to change the way I forgive both myself and those I know.
One summer, I went to summer camp. I found out on accident that a friend of mine planned to play a practical joke on me. I took it the wrong way and decided to get even. I took measures to defend myself and the day before the planned joke I played a guilt trip on her, telling her how much I loved and trusted her. Nothing happened the next day.
Another summer, I went kayaking with some friends. We stopped to play in the water on the shore for a short while. I didn’t play. I didn’t like getting wet when I had my clothes and no bathing suit. My friends snuck up behind me and splashed water all over me. I was soaked and I added more water to my clothes with my tears. I cried and yelled at them and held a grudge against them for a day or two before I got over it, but I never fully or officially forgave them.
Most recently, while playing a game of Apples to Apples, my college friends decided to steal my keys and hide them. They refused to give back my keys until we had finished the game. The stress built up inside me and once the game was over I ran to my room to cry. I wasn’t so much mad at them as I was mad at myself for getting stressed over such a small thing.
Another day, a college friend of mine called me an idiot for skipping chapel. It hurt my feelings, and I yelled back at her. We didn’t talk for most of the day. After a while, however, we talked it over and forgave each other.
Some of my college teachers also get on my nerves. One teacher, in particular, talks down to her students a lot. There have been days when I wanted to shoot her or myself (figuratively speaking – not literally) because I didn’t want to be in class. I felt her class was pointless and that she didn’t teach anything. When Professor Cook gave his lecture on forgiveness, this teacher was the first person to come to my mind.
As the days went on after the lecture, I began to think of all the other areas of my life where I have forgotten to truly forgive. I needed to forgive my teacher and get the most out of her class as I possibly could. I needed to forgive my friends for playing practical jokes on me. I needed to forgive myself for all my sins.
I have the most trouble forgiving myself. The guilt won’t always go away. I often feel drained inside. I question God. I ask Him how He could have a plan for me, a sinner who never seems to stop sinning. I question how He can forgive me and why I can’t forgive myself. I ask Him if He still loves me even after all the stupid things I’ve done and continue to do. Even the little sins tend to grow on my back as a burden. I know God sees all sins as equal, but it’s hard to see things through God’s eyes. I keep reading verses about how God has a plan for my life and about how He will never stop forgiving me, but they don’t seem to register in my heart.
A few months ago I opened my Bible and found Luke 17:4. It says, “And if he sins against you 7 times a day, and 7 times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” This verse applies both to forgiving my friends and forgiving myself. It stood out to me because it was different. I had never read it before, although I had read Matthew 18 plenty of times.
I continue to try to allow God to work in my heart. While things don’t seem to register, I know God will always be there for me. As a step of faith, I often randomly open my Bible and start reading. I ask God to speak to me. Even if I don’t feel His presence or His forgiveness today, I ask Him to show Himself to me and to use me. I ask Him to take my bitterness away and to help me forgive myself and my friends.
Recently, I opened my Bible to Proverbs 24:10-11 which says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.” Reading this, I said a short prayer to God:
I know I am weak. Lord, be my strength. Do not let me fall again. Help me to forgive others and to forgive myself. I need You and You alone to deliver me from. Hold me back and keep me from death. Show me your ways. Help me to be careful what I say and to not let my emotions get the best of me. When I am tempted to show my frustration, I will go to you. I will love others as you love me. Thank you for being the light on my path. Please continue to shine in my life. Make me whole in You.
Your Daughter, Harmony