Forgiveness is at the core of Christian teaching and belief yet there is no end to our attempts to understand, appreciate, and enact it in our lives. First, there is the forgiveness of God, which assures us of our worth and strengthens us to take this practice to heart in our doings. Then there is the forgiveness we extend to others, especially those who have harmed or wronged us in some way. Finally, there is self-forgiveness which enables us to release our guilt and self-perfectionism. No matter how much we practice these three, it never gets any easier to do.
A Forgiving Heart: Prayers for Blessing and Reconciliation, edited by Lyn Klug, covers a subject that is at the core of Christian teaching and yet there is no end to our attempts to understand, appreciate, and enact it in our lives. As Doris Donnelly writes here: "Forgiveness is and always has been an impractical, illogical and uncommon approach to life: forgiving our enemies, doing good to those who hurt us, repaying evil with kindness. Contrary to myth, forgiveness is not instinctive, and most of the time it is a very difficult and time-consuming enterprise."
Klug has organized this fine collection of soulful quotations, prayers, and other encouragements for a richer devotional life into nine chapters on abiding in God's love, learning to forgive, forgiving ourselves, loving family and friends, loving our enemies, healing the broken, being the church, living as one nation, and on earth, peace. A leader of retreats on prayer and the editor of two other volumes, she sheds light on the many different aspects of forgiveness.
We especially liked the images and sentiments in this Arabic proverb: "Write the wrongs that are done to you in sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. Let go of all emotions such as resentment and retaliation, which diminish you, and hold onto the emotions such as gratitude and joy, which increase you."
This blessing by Jane Vennard would be very appropriate to share with teenagers: "God of tears and God of laughter... Laughter has been missing in much of my life. I have been afraid of laughter because of the many times I was ridiculed and mocked. Help me to know that love and laughter can go together. Help me to discover the joy and delight in laughter shared. Forgive me for the times my fear has led me to laugh at others. Forgive those who have mocked me in the past. Teach them and me the gift of loving laughter."