Forgiveness is such a complicated thing when we try to analyze it. We pick it apart like an old wool sweater so we can see just how it's put together. Then we try to make it fit our body, wrapping it around ourselves and trying to re-knit it together.
But it never works that way. It is uncomfortable, lumpy and there are holes that the winds of doubt blow through, chilling you to the bone.
I'm not talking about forgiveness of others - I am talking about forgiveness of self.
In some ways it is easier to forgive others than yourself. You can push something aside and with enough will it seems you can forgive it. But with yourself, it's as though you wear glasses tinged with guilt and you see each action as a reflection on your guilt.
So what is forgiveness? It's not something that you can put on, like that old sweater. It's not something you can feel or hold in your hand.
After spending quite a bit of time praying today, I figured a few things out... or rather, God helped me to figure them out.
1. Forgiveness must be received - it's not just given.
2. It is received in your heart and it must be received - God expects you to receive it.
3. God does not want us wandering around this world without receiving forgiveness. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28)
None of this absolves you from having to face the consequences of any actions here on earth. But it does help to focus you on the eternal rather than the earthly. In many ways it increases the weight of personal responsibility because you know you cannot, should not and will not avoid that personal earthly consequence, but that it does not change your value in the eyes of God.