Grace & Guts: What It Takes to Forgive is a book about a topic I have gone to terrific lengths to avoid.
This book is not for those ultra-pious Christians who declare that of course we must forgive those who’ve hurt us because that’s what we’re called to do, period, so do it already. It’s not for those who don’t, or won’t, acknowledge the struggles inherent in being human, even a person who, with all her or his heart, aches to do what is right.
It’s not for anyone who is unwilling to admit that there are moments in life, even seasons in life, when feelings and thoughts of vengeance, anger, enmity, bitterness, or resentment have their way with us, even for those of us who strive to follow the most elegant and extravagant forgiver of all time, Jesus.
No, for me, the issue of forgiveness is sorely personal. It is the source of a profound degree of pain, anguish, struggle, and failure in my life.
Although forgiveness is the thickest of the threads that make up the cords of my Christian faith, I have wondered how I could possibly begin to talk to others about embracing, extending, and personalizing forgiveness when I still deal with bouts of revenge and retaliation myself.
I have known the bitter taste of unforgiveness for as long as I can remember. So, Grace & Guts is for those who admit they wrestle with unforgiveness on a daily (hourly? minute-by-minute?) basis.
It is for those of us who have been left bleeding, embittered, and in desperate need of liberation from the prison that unforgiveness inevitably erects around our hearts and souls.
It is for those courageous enough to understand that they will never make genuine progress by pretending that what happened didn’t happen, or by clinging to some hope that the pain will go away if we ignore it long enough.
Not long ago, a Gallup poll indicated that 94 percent of Americans believe forgiveness is a substantive issue in their lives, and 85 percent say they need help with how to go about it.
How can we forgive injustices committed against us? How can we forgive people who have wronged us and wounded us?
There is a part of me that doesn’t believe they should get away with it. There is a part of me that wants them to pay for what they have done. And if I am honest — and I promise you I am going to be — I must call this for what it is. There is something inside me that wishes for retribution and even revenge. In some corner of my heart, the idea of forgiving is all too foreign.
Yet, deeper within, I also know unforgiveness is a poison to the soul that gradually and surreptitiously drains me of the abundance I could have in life.
How on God’s earth can we be forgiven? That is an issue any book on forgiveness must address, and, in my experience, going there requires the two qualities for which Grace & Guts is named.
Dr. Lewis Smedes gets it right when he says, “Forgiveness is God’s invention for coming to terms with a world in which, despite their best intentions, people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply. He began by forgiving us. And he invites us all to forgive each other.”
A dynamic Bible teacher, Barbara Francis makes the scriptures come alive and excels at relating biblical principles to everyday living. She loves helping people find hope. Visit her new blog, www.graceandguts.net.Tags: grief, hope