Our new book – Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships – releases one week from today! If you pre-order this week you can still get a $22 clip frame for FREE. It includes 37 unique art prints! Friends don’t let friends miss out on great deals, right?! Order the book and redeem your FREE clip frame gift here.
Friends are hard work. Heck, people are hard work. There’s no getting around it. The only way through is through. Through the knowing and the showing up and the forgiving and the laughing and the folding laundry together and the walking kids to school and the daring to do the ugly cry in front of each other.
Because there are no perfect people, inevitably someone will hurt us and we will hurt someone. What matters is what comes next. Will we forgive them, or will we withdraw? Will we work it out, or will we write it off? Will we say the hardest words in the friendship vocabulary — I’m sorry, please forgive me?
I once heard the singer, Ellie Holcomb say, “God didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.” It rocked me because I think we spend so much of our lives trying to be good. We forget good is near impossible. It’s life that Christ came to offer us. And only through His life offered for us can we ever arrive at the gift of goodness.
We are none of us bad or good; we are all of us dead. Dead in our sins and our old cycles of pain and lies and despair. And Jesus has come to breathe His own living breath into our dry bones. He calls your name into the tomb. He yells it. He sings it. He whispers it. He calls you by name in whatever way He knows you will hear Him best.
And then He trades His own life for yours so that you can walk out of your past and your broken relationships and the shrapnel that has characterized your life and walk into the light to stand with Him — the greatest of all friends — beloved, whole, and heart-pumpingly alive.
But if we aren’t able to leave our anger and bitterness and resentment in that tomb it will snake out behind us like the rotting bandages of an undead mummy and wrap us up in knots. It will try to pull us back into the grave and make it impossible to walk forward into any kind of friendship with all of that still clawing at us.
The apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul, before his conversion) who so infamously hunted down the early Christians and personally signed their death warrants and witnessed their executions, understood this truth. He was haunted by his own legacy of sin and described it like this:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
Paul’s question is much more gruesome than it appears on the surface. He may have been referencing one of the Roman Empire’s more torturous forms of executing justice — the practice of strapping the corpse of a murder victim to the back of the murderer.
Paul literally felt the weight of his own sin and his inability to live up to God’s law like a dead body dragging him down with it. I know what that feels like. I’m guessing you do too. Because Satan would like nothing more than to see all of us women infected by our past hurts, the lies we’ve believed and the grievances we bear. If it was up to him he would strap the corpses of our failed friendships and dead relationships to our backs and have us carry them into every conversation, every tender connection and new interaction. Into every Bible study and book club, into every girl’s night out and kid’s birthday party.
But Jesus says,
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
He’s the only one who can cut that dead weight of broken relationships and old patterns off our backs. The only one who can holler our names and invite us into community with Him and set us free to embrace friendship, connection, and vulnerability. Life, He has come to offer us His own life so that we can have our own lives back. He wants us to have all that He knows to be true about community — that it is good, so very good.
Forgiveness is ground zero. Forgiveness is where we begin. Forgiveness is walking out of the tomb of our own making. Forgiveness is no to death and yes to life. Forgiveness is all that we’ve been given — passing it on to someone else.
Without forgiveness, friendship becomes extinct and relationship non-existent.
Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is opportunity for relationship in the future.
Not necessarily with the same people who’ve scarred us. But sometimes, by the grace of Christ, forgiveness is exactly that powerful – to restore broken relationships to fresh health, and offer the same people a completely different way of relating to one another.
Forgiveness is the beginning. And it’s how we find closure even on the relationships that won’t ever be completely restored to us. Because forgiveness is like a pair of tweezers picking out the shards of shrapnel embedded in our hearts and minds by people we once loved.
Forgiveness removes the hurt so that we can heal. Forgiveness is the gift we give to ourselves so that we can stop bleeding and begin to grow new skin over old wounds.
Forgiveness is the first step out of the dark and into the light.
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