"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who have trespassed against us"
(or "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." or however we word it)
We say these words at every Church service, and any other time we say the Lord's Prayer. These words come from Matthew, chapter 6, verse 12.
And as Christians, we do try to hold to these words. For the most part. We do ask for God's forgiveness when we know we've sinned. And we do work very hard at forgiving others when they have wronged us. It's not always easy, but we try.
But where we often fail.... I do not believe we look at this petition in the fullness it deserves. This petition is basically telling us not to harbor grudges. We recognize someone hurt us and we forgive so as to let go of the anger so we can better serve God. We don't want that anger and pain to stop us from being God's vessel for good.
But how can we truly empty our hearts of that anger and pain... how can we truly be God's vessel... if our hearts are plagued by anger at ourselves? How can we fully serve God if we cannot forgive ourselves?
The truth is, we often hold ourselves at a higher expectation than others. This isn't necessarily wrong. One of the three uses of God's law is for it to be a mirror - to see that the law is a reflection of what God intended the human heart to be, and to see that we are not that way. We are sinful. The mirror is a personal reflection of our own sinfulness. Lent is a time when we look upon that sinfulness.
And because we see that sinfulness, when we ask God to forgive us, we don't always fully want that forgiveness. We know we don't deserve it. But the truth is... the brother, sister, friend, enemy you just forgave - they didn't deserve God's forgiveness either. And yet it's given. Why should it be any different for you?
God never intended us to stay staring into that mirror. We are to recognize that. But then we are to move on. We need to forgive ourselves to be able to move on... otherwise, we simply continue to sin.
We continue to hold a grudge, therefore keeping away God's grace. We delve into self-pity, rather than truly seeking Christ. We sulk in our own misery, refusing to let in God's mercy.
Suggested Lenten sacrifice:
Let go of self-grudges.
Allow yourself to ask for forgiveness and really want it. Truly accept it. And forgive yourself. Let go of the anger and pain in your heart so as to fully give God access to work with you and through you.
May the peace of God wash over you. May the forgiveness of God set your hearts at rest. May the love of God embrace you. Today, and every day.