Last night was such a deep and profound time for our Practice Family. A week ago we immersed ourselves in what it means to experience and receive God’s forgiveness and last night we took on the difficult task of exploring what it means to become forgivers.

Dre spoke this time about the second half of this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Some of the highlights from what she shared are still settling deep in my heart as I start my day:

  • The secret to becoming a forgiver is that we can only offer forgiveness after we’ve experienced being forgiven by God.
  • Sometimes we focus too much on the SHOULD of forgiveness, wrongly turning it into an issue of mind over matter. A caterpillar must go through stages of transformation before it can fly, so too do we need stages of transformation before we can forgive.
  • In the face of forgiving, sometimes it feels easier to disconnect from our heart to cope. But it’s a lousy life to live without a heart.
  • Forgiveness isn’t pretending you aren’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that trust is automatically restored. We need to grieve what has been lost.

An incredible gift of the night was Dre inviting Rhianna Godfrey to share her experience of how God has led her into forgiving her mother. It was so powerful to hear a real life experience laid out before the room, making forgiveness seem tangible, real and raw. I was so encouraged by Rhianna’s courage and honesty, hearing how she faced into the pain of the relationship with her mother to pursue forgiveness, yet knowing how human she felt throughout the whole experience. As Rhianna shared the journey God has been leading her through, I could begin to identify some important moments of transformation in her story; how God transformed her anger, increased her compassion and is continuing to give her strength to release and forgive.

In light of this beautiful testimony to God’s grace, Dre shared David Benner’s model as a suggestion on how to journey through forgiveness:

  • To begin the journey of forgiveness, we first need to feel our pain. Instead of pretending we aren’t hurt, we should allow the pain to resurface and invite God into our pain.
  • The next step is to let God reframe our pain, to reveal our offenders as human, to understand what happened to us in a new light.
  • The final step is to release the anger. Allowing God to redeem the aching parts of you, soothe your sadness and invite you into greater freedom.

What happened next was truly a sacred moment with the Holy Spirit. Dre led the room through a guided time of reflecting on the stages of this model, asking God if there is anyone he would like us to think about forgiving. I feel like the collective heartbeat of the room began to quicken, and as Dre held us tenderly in that moment, I could hear the sniffles and tears throughout the room as God brought people to mind.

It was a heavy time, but such a beautiful time of our community opening up our posture to the guidance of God. We ended by approaching the table for communion with John’s words ringing in our ears that this is ‘a table of reconciliation.’ How amazing to receive communion and in that moment feel the reality of our reconciliation with God, in doing so feeling hope that through that same power we could be reconciled to others.

I was so moved by the openness of our community and so proud of us for facing into the pain together. It truly is always safer and always better to pursue forgiveness in community and in relationship. It is my hope that each and every one of us would continue to heal in a trusted relationship as we navigate forgiveness – do not forget to follow up with our Forgiveness Next Steps blog that will point you to different ways to find those relationships.

Scott Gibson then closed us with the benediction and a beautiful word on how precious it was to serve communion to our community, to see each face and each story pass before him as they received the blood and body of Christ. He also wisely reminded us that forgiveness is a process – I certainly needed to be reminded of that.

I plan to sit with God in prayer this week and carefully consider, “Who can I walk this path of forgiveness with?” Would you pray with me and be bold in your prayer? If it’s a counselor, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a trusted friend – would you pray with me that God would give you the courage to reach out? If you woke up aching this morning from all we explored last night, remember, don’t do this alone. Find that relationship to heal within.

May we continue to take one step at a time, learning to receive forgiveness and in the process, learning how to be forgivers.

Blessings and Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team