Friends are hard work. Heck, people are hard work. There’s no getting around it. The only way through is through. Through the knowing and the showing up and the forgiving and the laughing and the folding laundry together and the walking kids to school and the daring to do the ugly cry in front of each other.
Because there are no perfect people, inevitably someone will hurt us and we will hurt someone. What matters is what comes next. Will we forgive them, or will we withdraw? Will we work it out, or will we write it off? Will we say the hardest words in the friendship vocabulary — I’m sorry, please forgive me?
I once heard the singer, Ellie Holcomb say, “God didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.” It rocked me because I think we spend so much of our lives trying to be good. We forget good is near impossible. It’s life that Christ came to offer us. And only through His life offered for us can we ever arrive at the gift of goodness.
We are none of us bad or good; we are all of us dead. Dead in our sins and our old cycles of pain and lies and despair. And Jesus has come to breathe His own living breath into our dry bones. He calls your name into the tomb. He yells it. He sings it. He whispers it. He calls you by name in whatever way He knows you will hear Him best.
And then He trades His own life for yours so that you can walk out of your past and your broken relationships and the shrapnel that has characterized your life and walk into the light to stand with Him — the greatest of all friends — beloved, whole, and heart-pumpingly alive.
But if we aren’t able to leave our anger and bitterness and resentment in that tomb it will snake out behind us like the rotting bandages of an undead mummy and wrap us up in knots. It will try to pull us back into the grave and make it impossible to walk forward into any kind of friendship with all of that still clawing at us.
The apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul, before his conversion) who so infamously hunted down the early Christians and personally signed their death warrants and witnessed their executions, understood this truth. He was haunted by his own legacy of sin and described it like this:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
Paul’s question is much more gruesome than it appears on the surface. He may have been referencing one of the Roman Empire’s more torturous forms of executing justice — the practice of strapping the corpse of a murder victim to the back of the murderer.
Paul literally felt the weight of his own sin and his inability to live up to God’s law like a dead body dragging him down with it. I know what that feels like. I’m guessing you do too. Because Satan would like nothing more than to see all of us women infected by our past hurts, the lies we’ve believed and the grievances we bear. If it was up to him he would strap the corpses of our failed friendships and dead relationships to our backs and have us carry them into every conversation, every tender connection and new interaction. Into every Bible study and book club, into every girl’s night out and kid’s birthday party.
But Jesus says,
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
He’s the only one who can cut that dead weight of broken relationships and old patterns off our backs. The only one who can holler our names and invite us into community with Him and set us free to embrace friendship, connection, and vulnerability. Life, He has come to offer us His own life so that we can have our own lives back. He wants us to have all that He knows to be true about community — that it is good, so very good.
Forgiveness is ground zero. Forgiveness is where we begin. Forgiveness is walking out of the tomb of our own making. Forgiveness is no to death and yes to life. Forgiveness is all that we’ve been given — passing it on to someone else.
Without forgiveness, friendship becomes extinct and relationships non-existent.
Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is an opportunity for a relationship in the future.
Not necessarily with the same people who’ve scarred us. But sometimes, by the grace of Christ, forgiveness is exactly that powerful – to restore broken relationships to fresh health, and offer the same people a completely different way of relating to one another.
Forgiveness is the beginning. And it’s how we find closure even in relationships that won’t ever be completely restored to us. Because forgiveness is like a pair of tweezers picking out the shards of shrapnel embedded in our hearts and minds by people we once loved.
Forgiveness removes the hurt so that we can heal. Forgiveness is the gift we give to ourselves so that we can stop bleeding and begin to grow new skin over old wounds.
Forgiveness is the first step out of the dark and into the light.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Having spent a large portion of my life trying and striving to be “good” (what exactly measures that I don’t know?), I love the words you used to sum up the conclusion I’ve come to – that Jesus came to make dead people alive again which torches the long held idea that He came to make bad people good. Love this paradigm shift! Also, like you said, forgiveness is key in friendships because sooner or later our friends are going to let us down. Our God is so good that forgiveness is not built for the good of the person being forgiven (which of course is a good benefit), but it is truly a well spring of life for the person letting go of the ills done toward them and trusting them in the hands of the ultimate judge. Loved this excerpt and the book!!
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Thanks for these encouraging words, Bev!!
Sarah Geringer says
Hi Lisa-Jo! This post is so true. I confess, I’m still a novice at forgiveness. Yet as I walk closer with God, I see how important forgiveness is. The more I look at my own sins and how Jesus has covered them, the more willing I am to let go of others’ offenses.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Me too, Sarah. Me too!
Michele Morin says
Thanks, Lisa-Jo, for taking us to “Ground Zero.” I’m so thankful that when we go with humility, it is God’s practice to see us there, to hear our hearts, and to raise us up.
Thank you for your beautiful truthful written words.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Thanks for reading along with us Angela!
Thank you for this devotional, as I write I am struggling with a friendship that was once very dear to me. I have tried to compartmentalize and make excuses to ease the hurt of our friendship ending. I ask that you join me in prayer to move towards forgiveness for myself (and the role I played in the fallout) as well as for her.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Praying with you today Angela. That Jesus will heal your hearts as only He can.
I gratefully accept the gift to forgive as a blessing from God. Whether I’m forgiven or not, I’ve come to accept that also. Thank-you for reminding us of the importance, and beauty forgiveness holds.
“I say unto thee, not seven times, but seventy times seven”. ‘King James’
Have a blessed day all,
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Amen Penny. So much amen.
I am reading an advance copy and I’m having to go slow. I expected a frivolous superficial book but it’s ministering to my soul. Beneath my facade of “fine” are some long-standing wounds and self-doubting thoughts resistant to change. Thanks for the tender balm of vulnerability.
Beth Williams says
Just love your authentic writing. This struck me: “The Roman Empire’s more torturous forms of executing justice — the practice of strapping the corpse of a murder victim to the back of the murderer.” I’ve never heard of that before. I realize Satan wants to do that with our sins. Once you lie, cheat, steal, gossip, or mess up-he wants you to live with that guilt forever. Even after you prayed to God for forgiveness. Satan would love nothing more than to have us in despair. God wants us in community. He want us to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
Friendships can be hard. We all get hurt. A good friendship will share the messy with the good. I am blessed to have such relationships. There have been times lately that I felt “down and depressed” over my aging dad’s health. God sent wonderful people to “be there” for me and allow me to be me-warts and all. I wish more women would be vulnerable and take off the “Fine” mask. Tell us how you are doing-really. Share the ugly, and bad. We’re here to support you.
Sarah C says
I believe this post was written for me. The words answered exact comments I’ve made in the last couple weeks. Thank you, Jesus for these words and for bringing in(courage) into my life.
Nancy Ruegg says
I love that image of rotting bandages as representative of anger, bitterness and resentment! No, no! I mean that image is so distastefully accurate, it’s sure to encourage productive action when those three emotions come creeping around. Then this image also caught my attention: “Forgiveness is like a pair of tweezers picking out the shards of shrapnel embedded in our hearts and minds.” What a perfect illustration! Painful for a moment; sweet relief after. Thank you, Lisa-Jo, for your wisdom on the power of forgiveness.
Jennifer Wolford says
Lovely, deep words with a vulnerability that grabs you from the first page. Where is the form to redeem pre-order gifts for those of us who did pre-order, but did not realize there were more steps to go. Things are always a bit more complicated than they seem. Thanks.