I love the Psalms and C.S. Lewis’s reflections are inspiring. This quote in particular makes you think. Jesus really did say forgive “seventy times seven,” which literally means as many times as necessary. Ouch! That’s a hard truth to swallow along with our pride.
There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’ In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.-from Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis
Seventy times seven to the tenth power seems to be how many times I must learn the lesson of forgiveness. I know how healing and freeing it is to forgive . . . until I forget.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says love “keeps no record of wrongs.” But when someone has wronged me I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.
Thankfully Jesus never said to His Father, “Don’t forgive them. I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.”
Last Year’s Transgression
Earlier this year I was holding onto an offence from summer 2020. I reached the hard decision to forgive. Really, I had. But every time I was reminded of it, I record anew how I was wronged.
“And she’s not even sorry,” I explained to God. She doesn’t even think she did anything wrong. Early on, He woke me in the middle of the night: “Pray for her.”
“You mean like David prayed for You to destroy his enemies in the Psalms?”
“No, not like that. Pray as Jesus prayed for you.”
So I did. And it helped to heal the wound and free my mind from the trap of bitterness.
I learned my lesson and each time the anger creeped in again, I forgave a little more quickly.
The Never-Ending Transgression
Until recently when someone who has said things that hurt me on way more than seventy-times-seven occasions. It’s been the story of my life, to have her speak words that shatter my heart.
I know I need to forgive her. And many times I have. But this latest wound was just too much. I was already grieving and she compounded my grief tenfold with her words.
She’ll blame it on her mental illness, and I get that it’s a struggle for her. She’ll blame it on her own grief, but that doesn’t give her the right to ignore my grief.
She’ll claim she doesn’t even remember saying what she said. And maybe she doesn’t. But I do. I remember every cruel word she has ever spoken to me. Every single one. Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve often forgiven but not forgotten.
I ruminated on what I might say to her when next we met and I couldn’t come up with anything nice. I’ve spent decades being loving and understanding and forgiving. This time I didn’t think I could.
But I did. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to draw from my mouth the right things to say, the forgiving thing to say. It helped that the focus was on the one we were both grieving over.
A Prayer for You and Me
Heavenly Father, Help me to forgive as You do, more quickly and completely, as You forgive me. Help the one reading this post, who may also be struggling to forgive a long list of transgressions, to turn to You for help. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.