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The Day a Highway Sign Made Me Angry and Sad #ForgivenessFriday

May 3, 2013

The 12-year relationship I enjoyed with my best friend had grown roots deep into my heart. That same deep place in my heart experienced a painful rip when our relationship abruptly severed. (I wrote about it HERE.)

Within a few days, I was determined to move on. Not because I wanted to but because I needed to.

A friend told me, “Mark you should take a few days off, get away, clear your head, and work on your heart before rushing into the next season of your life.”

My wife and I decided that’s exactly what we needed. So we got away. We loaded up our suburban that Friday and drove the 90 miles to Junction, TX. The familiar family home sat on the Llano River and provided us the needed change of scenery and tranquility that comes with no TV or internet access.

I had one goal that weekend: Completely forgive by Monday morning. God wanted that. I wanted that. So why not?

I spent the weekend reading Scripture, praying, crying, journaling, meditating, walking, playing with my kids, and talking with my wife. I knew God was going to shape me through this. I just needed Him to do it by Monday morning.

That weekend I prayerfully drove the proverbial stake in the ground to choose forgiveness no matter what. I felt a twinge of hope.

Monday morning came. I was determined to go home and be a healthy husband, father, and pastor.  Come hell or high water, I was leaving my grudge in Junction.

So we piled into our suburban, turned on some upbeat music and began the drive back home but now we were accompanied by our new friends: determination and hope.

Ninety miles later, as I drove back into our home town, something trivial triggered my mental DVR. The highway sign, announcing the exit which led to my former job, caught my attention. Immediately, without any invitation or effort on my part, I felt a surprising surge of emotional pain from that deep place in my heart. This time pain brought his friends, anger and sadness, who quickly beat the living daylights out of my hope and determination. In their dark and cruel way, they screamed that forgiveness never really happened. Suddenly, I felt defeated and confused.

That’s when my confusing and frustrating journey with forgiveness began. I’m a pastor who can’t forgive? How will I ever help my kids forgive?

I didn’t know it then, but my wife and I had just entered a new season of our lives in which our faith would be challenged by our deep hurts and a God who appeared to be missing in action.

Looking back, one misunderstanding set me up for that difficult season. I don’t know where I ever heard this or why I believed this. But here’s the one misunderstanding that sabotaged my forgiveness efforts:

I thought forgiveness was a one-time decision that included one genuine prayer.

My misunderstanding was costly. Resentment grew in my heart and I held a grudge . . . for three long years.

I eventually learned that forgiveness is a process. “The deeper the wound, the longer forgiveness might take.” -Dr. Robert Enright

We’ll be discussing how to forgive during our #ForgivenessFriday series. But first, you need to discover if you have any misunderstandings that might sabotage your forgiveness journey.

Here are 10 common misunderstandings about forgiveness: 


Forgiveness is not neglecting justice. You can forgive and still call the police.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. I’ll remember your offense but I’ll choose to remember forgiveness more.

Forgiveness is not denying, approving, or diminishing their actions. Forgiveness gravely recognizes that sin (mine and my offenders) sent Christ to the cross.

Forgiveness is not weakness. Confronting your deepest pain and choosing to forgive is not a journey for the faint-hearted.

Forgiveness is not trust. Forgiveness is a free gift you offer and trust is a separate gift they earn.

Forgiveness is not enabling. Forgiveness may require confronting if the offender is hurting themselves but it always includes wanting what’s best for you and your offender.

Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. An apology is a choice your offender makes. Forgiveness is a choice you make.

Forgiveness is not dying emotionally and no longer feeling the pain. Your pain either moves you toward bitterness or grace. Forgiveness allows pain to move you toward grace.

Forgiveness is not a one-time event. Forgiveness is a process (“seventy times seven”) that looks more like a steady marathon than a quick sprint.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation. It takes one person to forgive and two people to reconcile.

Here’s a great 6-minute video by Mark Driscoll on what forgiveness is and is not:

Next Friday, we’ll begin discussing the process of forgiveness.

Maybe you or someone you know is struggling with a past hurt. Will you forward this to them AND pray for them today?

Any other misunderstandings you’d add to this list?

Which forgiveness misunderstanding have you struggled with?

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18

Click HERE for PART 3 of #ForgivenessFriday Series


From → Forgiveness

  1. Rita Smith permalink

    Dear Mark, I have been reading your posts on forgiveness and do feel convicted by your honesty! My own journey was with a family member who arrived at my moms home to ” sort out” her possessions too quickly after she died. . I was not ready to say goodbye, nor had I Grieved enough. My encounter at my moms did not go well and things were said that reinforced that person’s wounds from my family’s treatment of her.
    The wounds festered for four or five years with only a few choice contacts, which were icy at best.
    As God began to deal with me, He melted my heart, yet my will was still in tact- “ill never let her back in my life, even though I forgive her. “Somehow God overrode that logic.
    I have begun bit by bit to talk and text her even though what she did broke my heart in a way I had not anticipated. My question is now something learned thru experience- what does love require of ME? I cannot resist the Holy Spirit when He causes me to think of the betrayal of my Lord, Jesus Christ! I cannot place the boundaries of popular convention on that relationship. I must become focused on how Christ forgave ME even to the cross! My lies put Him there, it was for my unfaithfulness that He remained faithful! He bore the sins I could not bear and so it is for Him I forgive! It’s a daily cross sometimes because my memory constantly reminds me that I was wronged- yet when I focus on Christ, I cannot deny that forgiveness. It doesn’t mean they are back in my life, or that I forgot, it means that I understand better my own sin nature and can relate to their fallen ness. I can forgive because I was forgiven at Calvary.
    Every day is different- sometimes that choice feels good and sometimes it proves faulty. Positionally, I have chosen to hear the Lords prayer as the disciples did, when they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray -“give us THIS Day our daily bread and Forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Whether or not the trespasser knows he/ she is forgiven is up to us. Just so we daily pick up our cross and follow Him. Forgiveness is not a choice, it is a command which, if we are Christ followers, we dare not ignore.

    • Great wisdom in your words. Begin “bit by bit to talk and text” . . . that’s the forgiveness process. “What does love require of me?” = great question!. Forgiveness is a command. True. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom. Praying for continued progress in your forgiveness process. We’re in it together.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sadly, I held a grudge for more than 3 years. Here’s why . . . #ForgivenessFriday |
  2. Ready to forgive? IGNORE Your Story and IDENTIFY Your Injury. #ForgivenessFriday |
  3. Once upon a time, I began to forgive . . . finally. #ForgivenessFriday |

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