Spiritual Reflections

Letting Go

Despite being a churchgoer and having been a ministry worker for more than two decades, I have to admit: Forgiveness is not my forte.

Wow.

How can I be a Christian and have difficulty forgiving people? How can I have the spirit of God yet be unforgiving?

Believe me, I ask myself that. Most of the time. Almost all of the time.

They say to forgive is to forget. But in my case, just because I forgot doesn’t mean I forgave. Some of you probably experienced it, too: still feeling annoyed at someone without remembering why, holding a grudge against a person from what happened in the past even if you can’t remember the reason why.

But to forgive is more than just forgetting. If it was, then every wrongdoing that’s not remembered is automatically forgiven, right? Like that forgotten debt someone owed you, or that promise you forgot to hold on to. Every fault and failure should be erased at the magic words: “Oh, I forgot about it.”

To forgive is to release someone from the deserved consequence. For a debt, the collection. For a promise, the fulfilment. But more than just being released, to forgive is to reconcile what was lost. Thus, for a debt to truly be forgiven— trust should be restored. Unless you are willing to lend someone again, have you truly forgiven that debtor? So it is with a promise breaker: unless you start again with a new promise, can you tell yourself that you have forgiven that person?

This is why I hate forgiveness.

I am a practical/pragmatic person. I like being logical. I like common sense, and everything else that makes sense. For me, forgiveness has to be pragmatic: it is only feasible if and only if forgiveness will lead to a changed behavior. Thus, repeated offense will ultimately result to a forfeit of further forgiveness. After all, it’s stupid to allow other people to abuse your kindness, right? God is reasonable, right?

Yet the Bible tells us to forgive seventy times seven. In the old Testament, God keep forgiving the stubborn nation of Israel.

God, if people know that You’d just forgive them even after they do something wrong many times, they’d just keep doing it because they know You’d accept them again, right?

Just like me, who despite being a Christian, still keeps sinning.

I’ve come to hate forgiveness because it exposes how calloused I am. I’ve come to hate forgiveness because it exposes my own hypocrisy. I’ve come to hate forgiveness because it scares me, it overwhelms me, it laughs at the pointlessness of my own limited understanding. I’ve come to hate forgiveness because it compels me to emulate its meaning— to live it, and let it live in me. And that means continually letting go of my deep-seated, oft-forgotten grudges that I didn’t even realized still existed in me.

But why is it so hard to let go?

Can you blame me for holding on to my rights? Can you blame someone for holding on to what they believe is right? Can we ever blame anyone being guarded, being on the defensive, being afraid of being hurt again? Can we ever blame others for holding to the last shred of dignity and pride they have, that remaining though crumbling image of their shattered lives and dreams?

I don’t really know the answers. I wish letting go was as simple as saying a couple of magic words, as if faith was some kind of magic spell. I wish letting go was as easy as releasing a balloon to the sky, or a bird from its cage, or letting someone decide on their own. But I do know that letting go doesn’t end with just opening our hands: it only begins there— not empty, but ready.

I can’t help but remember an old but oft-forgotten song by Gary Valenciano. It’s a beautiful song that sort of sums up not just his own personal testimony, but ours, too, individually. And at times like this, when I feel spiritually complacent, it’s a song that slaps me awake, reminding me of the simplest yet most important lessons about our faith in Christ.

I used to feel the emptiness inside me
I was not supposed to feel that way, I had everything I needed
But nothing ever made me what I longed to be
The wealth, the name, the lights, the fame were everything to me

And then one night, out of the blue, I heard His name (Jesus)
And so I took that step of faith and walked into His domain
I believe that’s what He wants every heart to do
When hard may seem the task— one step is all He asks of you

CHORUS:
Letting go to know the truth is not so hard to do
It’s the heart that’s got the will to open up for Him to fill
And trusting and believing Him is all we’ve got to do
It’s just the heart that’s got to move
For Him to show His love that’s been there
Even when we never cared, take hold of His hand
Let go and you’ll understand

Why be afraid for God knows what you’re feeling
But even He can’t do a thing if He sees the heart’s not willing
And so we ask what’s going on, we want what’s right and still do wrong
When hard may seem the task— one step is all He asks of you

BRIDGE:
I guess by now you’d realize you can’t be on your own
And all your cares and all your burdens should be cast upon His throne
Letting go, just let go, letting go
Let go and you’ll understand
Just let go and you’ll understand

To my dear friend, even if my words no longer reach you, I will trust and believe that His love and grace will not fail to touch you somehow. Let go, as I did and am still learning to do. Let go, and understand His will — as we all ought to be.

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