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The Hardest Blessing Midweek Musing for 5-3-2023

This week’s musing is different because the majority of the words will not be mine. And to be honest they are meant probably as much or more for me than for you.

They are words that deal with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a central tenant of the Christian Faith.

And forgiveness is perhaps the hardest thing we have to do as followers of Jesus Christ.

I think it is especially hard when we are the victim who has done nothing to deserve whatever offense was done to us.

The words below spoke to me as I dealt with my own injuries this week. Now the injury was not to me but to my daughter Brittany. To avoid a long story, she was scammed by a phone call where she gave just enough information that later her banking account was accessed, and she lost thousands of dollars.

We are doing all the identity theft, fraud, and police things you have to do with this situation. And we are hopeful she will get the funds back eventually. However, it has put a damper on her graduation with her master’s degree week. As her dad, I was beyond upset. I have run the gamut of emotions but mostly I have been (and am) mad. I even noted aloud some unkind things I wanted to do if I got ahold of the thieves.

Then last night as I was heading to bed the nighttime prayer included a modern version of the Lord’s Prayer that included that pesky line of forgiveness. It said it this way. “Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.”

Suddenly, I did not feel so good. And honestly, I thought welp best I can do is try. But I am just not sure I am there yet.

Thus, I began looking for thoughts about forgiveness and I loved these words by Jan Richardson which she graciously allowed me to share from her blog The Painted Prayerbook.

Here is a little bit about Jan. She is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She serves as director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC, and has traveled widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker. She is also a powerful and prolific writer.

Anyway -I hope these words about forgiveness encourage and inspire you as they did me.

Reading from the Gospels, Year A,

Proper 19/Ordinary 24/Pentecost +14: Matthew 18.21-35

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times,

but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

– Matthew 18.22

As I’ve been pondering this parable of Jesus—one of his most challenging, which is really saying something—I have found myself wondering how many of us have absorbed any of these beliefs about forgiveness:

– Forgiveness means excusing or overlooking the harm that has been done to us and saying that everything is okay.

– Forgiveness means allowing those who have hurt us to persist in their behavior.

– Forgiving requires forgetting what has happened.

– Forgiveness is something we can do at will, and always all at once.

If we have absorbed any of these distorted beliefs about forgiveness, it can come as both a shock and

a relief to learn that such ideas would be foreign to Jesus. Clearly he expects us—requires us—to forgive. Yet in his teaching about forgiveness, nowhere does Jesus lay upon us the kinds of burdens we have often placed upon ourselves—burdens that can make one of the most difficult spiritual practices nearly impossible.

The heart of forgiveness is not to be found in excusing harm or allowing it to go unchecked. It is to be found, rather, in choosing to say that although our wounds will change us, we will not allow them to forever define us. Forgiveness does not ask us to forget the wrong done to us but instead to resist the ways it seeks to get its poisonous hooks in us. Forgiveness asks us to acknowledge and reckon with the damage so that we will not live forever in its grip.

Sometimes we are given the grace to forgive quickly. Sometimes the grace to forgive takes a long, long time to receive. And so forgiveness often requires practice. It takes choosing to work at it. We might have to chip away at it again and again and again. Seventy-seven times, at least, as Jesus says in this passage.

Forgiveness might well be the hardest blessing we will ever offer—or receive. As with any difficult practice, it’s important to ask not only for the strength we will need for it, but also the grace: the grace that will, as we practice again and again, begin to shimmer through our wounds, drawing us toward the healing and freedom we could hardly have imagined at the outset.

Is there some forgiveness you are being asked to practice? Are there any ideas about forgiveness that you might need to release—or take on—in order to enter this practice? How might it be to ask not only for the strength but also for the grace you need to forgive another—or yourself?

The Hardest Blessing

If we cannot

lay aside the wound,

then let us say

it will not always

bind us.

Let us say

the damage

will not eternally

determine our path.

Let us say

the line of our life

will not always travel

along the places

we are torn.

Let us say

that forgiveness

can take some practice,

can take some patience,

can take a long

and struggling time.

Let us say

that to offer

the hardest blessing,

we will need

the deepest grace;

that to forgive

the sharpest pain,

we will need

the fiercest love;

that to release

the ancient ache,

we will need

new strength

for every day.

Let us say

the wound

will not be

our final home—

that through it

runs a road,

a way we would not

have chosen

but on which

we will finally see


so long practiced,

coming toward us,

shining with the joy

so well deserved.

—Jan Richardson


Clay Gunter


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