I remember the first time that Chris (my husband) did something that truly irked me. I don’t remember the specifics of what he did or didn’t do, but I have a vivid memory of standing in the kitchen of my apartment, washing the dishes, and feeling my irritation level slowly and steadily rise.
We had been dating for a few months at the time, and this might have been my first taste of his imperfections (which, in all honestly, are few). Though we hadn’t known each other for very long, years of heartache, healing and waiting had prepared my heart in such a way that I knew pretty quickly that he was “the one.” He was everything I had ever wanted and more… and maybe that was why this first hurt caught me so off guard. Though he was perfect for me, it didn’t make him a perfect person.
I used my time cleaning the kitchen to process the situation. Within minutes of reflection, my conscience piped up: “Is this failure worth disrupting your relationship?”
“No…” I realized immediately — it wasn’t. Why would I let this little failure get in the way of the best thing in my life?
That’s exactly the point that today’s readings are trying to convey to us. There is absolutely no hurt or grievance that any of us have experienced that is worse than what God himself has experienced. He did not let our failures hinder his love for us. He came back, and continues to give us countless chances.
He desires this same effort from us– because that is what he made us for: to love! And refusing to forgive gets in the way of loving.
There’s that really well-known saying, “Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die.” Logically, this makes no sense, and none of us would ever do it. Yet weirdly, we often find it difficult to forgive one another… which is why God has commanded us to forgive. I’m not sure any of us would actually make the effort if it wasn’t for God’s insistence. Thank goodness he does; God doesn’t want us to drink the poison, he doesn’t want us to become a slave to our anger, or to be “locked up” in our own misery (much like the wicked servant in today’s Gospel).
God want’s us to be completely free, happy and healthy. This is only possible with the help of his grace. While what transpired between Chris and I was something very small, I’ve been able to apply this realization to much deeper wounds, and great fruit has come from these efforts. For me, no wound is worth risking my relationship with God.
God gives us grace… his very lifeblood… to enable us to make it to heaven. And once there, heartache and suffering will end, and God himself will wipe away every tear from our eye (cf. Rv 7:17). That is what I want… that is where I want to be… to exist for eternity in a place in which suffering is non-existent.
Brooding over earthly offenses is not worth missing out on an eternity of utter ecstasy. I’ve found the act of “the swap” to be pretty useful in the situations that spark inner controversy. It’s sort of like refusing to drink the poison, and instead asking God for a glass of grace. It’s an active choice, first to ask, then to receive — and the feelings of forgiveness often take longer to surface. Also, depending on the circumstance, I may need to drink 2-3 glasses of grace a day… sometimes a whole barrel-full. But this imagery gives me something to focus on… a “task” to accomplish instead of letting injustice ruin my sense of peace. I hope it helps you too.