The hardest thing for me to forgive is hypocrisy. To have been treated as though I am terrible while watching grace be extended to others just like me. To be expected to be gracious now that the shoe is on the other foot. To show compassion on demand when I have been left alone and derided in my own struggles. To experience dehumanizing moments only to watch others have their humanity affirmed.
I have often prayed to God, “This is too hard a cross for me to bear, Lord. Why do I have to be kind when no kindness has been given to me? Why should I care? Why SHOULD I CARE? They didn’t care about MY pain. They TOLD ME TO MY FACE that my tears didn’t matter to them. I am wounded still from being treated so carelessly. And now, You’re asking me to be for them what they chose not to be for me? Where is justice?”
God’s grace. My thorn.
Because I am human, I hurt. And without God’s grace, I’d unleash some incredibly unspiritual words and destroy everything in my path then walk away from the flames of burned bridges and broken relationships. Without God’s grace, I’d crumble under the weight of rage at the disuse instead of praying for those who have mistreated me. Without God’s grace, there would be no cheek to turn because I’d have hit them before they had a chance to hit me.
Yet here I am, having to display compassion when I want to walk away. Praying daily that God help me not be bitter and jealous hearted as I smile and bless rather than curse. I cry a lot, begging for forgiveness and strength to forgive as I fight the me who would rather die than humble myself. I plead for God to empower me to not be offended, forgiving every offense on the spot while asking God to relieve my mind and my heart of a searing agony wanting to take root in wrath and righteous indignation.
There are some things about God that are only learned through suffering.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about grace–not the grace of God unto salvation but the unbelievably bottomless grace we owe one another. His ideas of graciousness, of lovingkindness defy humanity. He demanded that we love others as we love ourselves. He declared that we ought to pray for those who persecuted us. He explicitly stated that we are to offer up forgiveness as many times as forgiveness is required. He made sure to say that we must take opportunity after opportunity to give–even at the expense of our physical comfort. And so when Paul speaks to the all-sufficient grace of God, it was in response to the idea that we could never, ever live in this level of grace of our own power. We are self serving and selfish and self preserving. Only in following God unto the death do we learn to sacrifice without benefit to ourselves. That we become that living sacrifice presented to God, holy and acceptable because grace costs something more than just waking up, showing up, hand out. Grace costs “reasonable service.” Grace costs sacrifice.
Jesus said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matthew 16:25). And since I want to save my life, I have to lay down that which is most precious even as I claw at my own chest in anguish. I must give up what I expected, side pierced with a thorn that only God’s grace can soothe–just enough that I can go on.