The other night I was putting the collar back on my little terrier pup, Monty. He’s a bouncy fellow, full of energy and was excited to be going outside to play for a bit and because he would not sit still I ended up pinching the skin on his neck with the snap of the collar. He yelped. Loudly and painfully. And then he stood still. He looked at me with an inquisitive gaze as if to say, “why did you just do that?” and I looked back at him and started rubbing his neck and apologizing for accidentally hurting him in such a dreadful way.
As I rubbed his neck, his eyes started to glisten over and his eyelids started to get heavy as if the relief from the pain and the gentle scratch just carried all his worries away for a moment. He then, all of a sudden, gathered himself back up with renewed strength, licked my hand quickly – the hand that had just caused him injury – and then started bouncing around excited and ready to go once again as if nothing had happened, rejoicing through it all.
In the hectic moment I didn’t give it much more thought, but I have since had a few more moments to contemplate his behavior. What an amazing ability to forgive that my little pup holds in his soul. Instead of holding a grudge or becoming fearful, he took a moment, found comfort, accepted what happened, forgave the very being that caused pain and moved on with boundless joy and excitement again. Wow!
I wish I could do this. When someone or something hurts me it is my habit to get angry and to harbor that anger deep in my heart and to remember it. I fixate on it, dwelling on the loss or the hurt and if confronted about it, my words are quick and harsh, biting back at whoever or whatever causes the memory to open again.
Oh how that blocks me from so much boundless joy… if I’d only forgive. There is a saying that you don’t forgive another for them, but for yourself. There is so much truth in this. In my life I have found that carrying the anger around gets very, very heavy and very, very exhausting. It is work to hate or hurt or cling to anger. And for what? What does it do? What good comes of it? Who does it really hurt?
Instead, when I am hurt and angry I should follow Monty’s lead. First taking a moment to realize and accept what has been done. This step is so important. I don’t support anyone who says that forgiveness should be instantaneous. True forgiveness can only come when complete understanding about the injury has been reached. And the only way to understand is through space and time. Sometimes it requires just a moment, sometimes it requires years.
As those moments pass however, it is possible to rejoice anyway. It is possible to find comfort just as Monty relaxed into my lap as I rubbed his hurt neck. For me, God, along with the natural wonders and animals he’s blessed me with, is where I find my greatest comfort. My space to relax, to reflect and to heal. It is not always graceful nor as easy as it sounds. I struggle to open my heart and the wounds so they can be diagnosed and cleansed. It often brings its own moments of pain. But I fight for it. I fight through it. And eventually…
I find forgiveness. I had a teacher in school whose motto was to “feel it deeply and then let it go.” I’ve held that close many times in my life. There is a time for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to tear and a time to mend. If we are to mend, we must forgive. If we are to forgive, we must understand. If we are to understand, we must feel.
My Monty. He has a forgiveness like no other. He feels everything. And he rejoices in each moment. And when he feels pain, he then finds comfort. And then he forgives and forgets so he can be filled with abundant joy once again. It is a lovely lesson from my tiny sidekick. His optimism astounds me and uplifts me every day. He is another gift from this great God of mine to serve as a reminder to me of His perfect plan and His ability to heal me and forgive me for all of my shortcomings, my lack of understanding.
And He, too, has a forgiveness like no other. A forgiveness that took His Son so that I may have eternal life with him. What an abundant joy that brings…
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV