And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. …For if you forgive people their trespasses (their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment), your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses…neither will your Father forgive you (yours.) (Jesus) Matthew 6:12,13,14 Amplified

          I learned the Lord’s Prayer on my little painted chair in Sunday School –so young that I remember hearing the word “debtors” as “lettuce,” and wondering why we were praying about vegetables. Strange and wonderful were the ways of grown-ups…!

Obviously, I’ve learned a lot about “debtors” since then. Forgiveness, too. Everything, in fact, except how to do it easily.

“No one can give me offense,” said a pastor/mentor of mine, “if I don’t take it.” I watched, amazed, as he lived that out before me. Some folks in the church were being mean, as only church people can be, but he refused to get hurt and angry. I wanted to respond in kind, but he never did, though he had to deal with them, week after week. Eventually, I was blessed to watch them all reconcile.

It’s a lesson I have to remember every time I allow myself to become offended. I’ll confess I struggle with forgiving a lot more than my pastor seemed to. I still get hurt, then angry. I still want to retaliate.

By now, I well know it’s wrong. By now, I well know that nurturing an offense only harms me, the offendee. The offender walks away, unaware or uncaring of the damage he leaves behind. That should be enough motivation to “leave it, let it go and give up my resentment.”

But I seem to need an extra boost…and Jesus’ words give it to me. I must forgive, He says, because I, too, need forgiveness.

For the truth is—I give offense. I blush to recall the number of times I have used my gift of communication to hurt someone else. Sometimes, (reckless) I was showing off and spoke without thought. Other times, (willfull) I was angry and deliberately meant to cause pain.

Regardless, I can’t call the words back, much as I might want to. As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t un-ring a bell.” So I must rely on forgiveness–from others and from God. To get it, I must give it.

It’s Lent— a season to turn around, repent, draw close to God–

A season to forgive.

FATHER GOD: I want to forgive. Help me. Help me to leave it, let it go, give up my resentment. Amen.

First published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 1, 2015.