The f-word...and my dirty heart.
Yep, I did it. I said the f-word. In a prayer. No, not that f-word. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm not perfect. I have said the one you are thinking of. More than once. In fact, being foul-mouthed--especially when I'm angry--is something I've struggled with my whole life. (My sweet mother, my kind husband AND, sadly, my poor kids can attest).
But, that's not really what this story is about. It's about the other f-word, the one I have been refusing to say, the one I've been actively fighting against, the one I have stricken from my personal repertoire of ways-to-be-the-hands-and-feet-of-Jesus in a broken world. The f-word I spat out in my desperate prayer to God is the one spelled f-o-r-g-i-v-e.
Some of you will relate: I've been struggling with raging, burning, unrelenting anger at someone who has made choices that devastated people I love. And, this weekend, after months and months of trying to shove it down, trying to just get over it, one more thing happened. Not a big thing in relation to the Very Big Thing that started us on a year-long journey of brokenness, anger and pain, but another thing, another reminder. And I decided I had just about had it. I told God in no uncertain terms that I was done. I simply couldn't forgive anyone, anymore. I told God that that kind-and-loving part of me He's been building up was tired and broken, probably beyond repair. I was at the end of my rope and hanging on by the tiniest of threads and there was absolutely no more grace or forgiveness or compassion in me.
I confessed it all--every black and brutal bit of it. How much I hate this person who has hurt us, turned our lives upside down, made everything harder for my family, for me. How much I just wanted this person to suffer, to disappear, to get what was coming for all the pain that's been inflicted on us. My mind, for weeks and weeks, has been full of fantasies of revenge and my heart has been full of roiling, rolling, relentless rage.
And, here's the thing. God was there. In the middle of the night, when I couldn't sleep because every time I closed my eyes, the anger and sheer hatred would roil up once again, He sat there with me in the dark of my bedroom, in the blackness of my heart and in the dirtiness of the words I was begging Him to let me say to the human who's hurt us.
God was there. He let me have my say, not to the person who's hurt us, but to Him. He heard and absorbed every bitter, disgusting rage-filled word. He let me cry and cuss and carry on. He did not make me "hide my crazy".
And, now, I am better.
I can't say the anger is gone. I can't say I've actually, totally forgiven this person who has caused us so much pain. That grace-giving part of me, while maybe on the mend, still really feels raw and broken. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that God was there with me. In my rage. In my pain. Even in my refusal to forgive. He stayed there, letting me lash out, letting me pound my fist and scream and cry and issue ultimatums.
And, then, when my tears were drying on my cheeks, and my heart was a little less full of the hate I had confessed, He reminded me that deep down I know--I've always known--I must eventually start the painful, ugly climb up the steps to forgiveness.
He is reminding me, in small moments, today, that the darkness and dirtiness of my heart is mine, not His. His heart is love and light and all things lovely and when the bitter rage threatens to overtake me, He is there, to help me, bit by bit, let go of it. He is there to help me see the light and He is there to bind up the parts of me that are broken.
Now, He reminds me, I just need the other f-word, the one He says requires only a single utterance, a fleeting thought, a tiny, mustard-seed-sized bit to start. The f-word He's giving me now is: F-a-i-t-h. Faith that He is big enough and good enough to handle my dirty heart and mind and mouth. Faith that He will replace what we've lost with something beautiful. Faith that I can, someday, truly forgive. And for today, that is enough.