Last week I had a chance to get in with a massage therapist. I’d had a massage scheduled for several weeks prior that had been cancelled, much to my chagrin. I love this type of therapy, though I do spend most of my time on the table fighting my compulsion to ask the therapist questions about herself. If I can generally abstain for an hour from my ‘care-taking’ neuroses, I am able to be still and feel my muscles give way to kind touch.
I told my therapist I thought I may need some extra attention to my shoulders. Forty five minutes later, the mass of knots in my left shoulder began to soften and cooperate. That left a solid fifteen for range of motion therapy and relaxation. Awesome. I had been living in a way that my shoulders refused to let go, even in response to kindness. It seems I prefer to carry the tension than to ask someone else to take it away. That is difficult for me. I pay a therapist, and still feel like I should be caring for them as they give me care.
This process is a mirror of the process of forgiveness in my heart. I get hurt, so I watch you, for signs of repentance, for the temperature in our relationship, and I lose me. I lose my ownership, my sense of limitation, and my peace. I carry on a fantasy conversation where I confront the wrong you have done, and imagine how I will correct you. Add a knot onto my shoulder. All because I know what you should do to repair this wrong you’ve done to me. There goes another knot. I rehearse in disbelief the ways you betrayed me. My muscles clamp down and tighten under the weight I’ve taken on. I analyze what shameful thing in me led you to hurt me. My shoulders buckle.
The weight of unforgiveness assumes an authority I cannot actually carry out. Why? Because I too, fail deeply. I too, am blind to some of my defects. I too, stubbornly refuse a contrite spirit when it would bring restoration with my Maker. And my Maker still invites me to hand the weight to Him, as He restores health to my spirit. He has no blind spots, no deep failures. He lived a righteous life on my behalf and died to take care of my weights, both those I willingly strap on, and the weight of another’s sin, and it is well between us.
We are not made to sustain the weight of retribution. We are not made to calculate justice. It’s beyond us, and it leaves us irritated, suspicious, and exhausted. I can let go of what I think you ought to do to make things right. I can let go of my demand for justice that makes sense. I can let go of my demand to be understood. Grace is weightless, and it brings rest to our burdened backs.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.