Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:9a-10,12)
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You won’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)
When I go to Our Father in heaven to ask him to forgive my debts, some of them are specific to my relationship with him. These may include not obeying a direct command to do something or not do something.
Sometimes it is my debt to my family, friends, or neighbor for something I did or said that caused them pain. I need to go and ask their forgiveness before coming to Our Father to ask him to forgive me (Matthew 5:23-24).
Forgiving is hard when someone has done something to wound me, my family, or someone else I love. Especially when there is no desire on their part to acknowledge what they did. All too often the pain becomes resentment and bitterness which ultimately affects more than just that relationship.
My aunt (my father’s sister) who raised me after my parents died, had a lifetime of bitter resentment against her father which caused issues within the family and had consequences with her physical health. In my adulthood, the last conversation I had with her, she mentioned that the next day would be the 21st anniversary of her father’s death and how she still couldn’t think of him without bitterness. I said, “Aunt, you are too grand of a woman to continue letting this poison you! It’s time to let it go!” We ended our conversation at about 7:30 p.m. At 4:00 a.m. the phone rang and my husband answered. He told him she was having a heart spell and the ambulance was at the door to take her to the hospital. He said we’d come as soon as we could. At 6:00 a.m. the hospital called to say she had died.
My husband said that when he hung up the phone with her that he had never heard her sound so good. The hope that hugs my heart is, maybe between the time we talked and when she died, she released it all and herself into our Father’s hands.
When I am tempted to hang on to a grievance, there are several ways I provide a visual for releasing the person or situation into Our Father’s hands: Sometimes I draw a cross and a prayer to remind me of what Jesus has done for us all (Isaiah 53) and I have also pulled up a weed from my garden and pinned it on my kitchen bulletin board to watch it shrivel and die as a reminder to not let bitterness take root in my mind and heart.
What might you use as a creative visual to encourage forgiveness for someone in your life?