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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “No Second Prances”

I liked this episode on its own to begin with, but on thinking about it while considering a message for today’s devotional I realized something new about it.

Former-villain-and-new-friendship-student Starlight Glimmer is tasked with making a new friend in Ponyville, but is constantly beset, internally and externally, with the fact that her background makes her rather untrustworthy. Nevertheless, she finally believes she succeeds in making a friend on her own when she finds an individual who shares a history of being a former villain: Trixie Lulamoon aka “The Great and Powerful Trixie”. Things go sour, however, later in the episode when Trixie accidentally reveals she only initially made friends with Starlight in order to show up Twilight Sparkle. Yet on realizing that she really wanted to be friends with Starlight, Trixie ends up not only apologizing but is willing to do “penance” in the form of doing a trick that could kill her if Starlight doesn’t help her out.And as for Starlight? She has to make the choice of whether or not she wants to forgive Trixie for her treachery.

Initially I keyed in on the title on thinking it referred to how the two main characters of this episode were both former villains, but on thinking about it harder I realized that Starlight Glimmer found herself in an interesting position toward the end. She herself had been wronged by an individual, and now she had to decide whether or not to forgive them for what they had done. Normally Starlight goes around asking other ponies for forgiveness for her own actions, but now she was faced with a similar situation…in which she had been hurt and now had to decide if the one who wronged her deserved another chance.

I’ll be bold enough to say that my life has been a lot better than that of most people’s, and I’ve been spared a great deal of misery. Yet one bad thing I can claim I have experience with is being in a situation where someone I loved backstabbed me and those I cared about, not once but multiple times, causing a lot of hurt and pain that drove me to rage against them…and I was given the opportunity to forgive them or not.

This wasn’t nearly as easy or simple of a situation as one might think. I don’t think anyone can really appreciate how much of a challenge this is unless, unfortunately, it happens to you. If some stranger or acquaintance does something against you and says they’re sorry later, that’s one thing. Even if a friend does it, one can eventually move on, with or without some lasting bitterness.

But when someone you love and trust does it, and when you feel the pain of your heart breaking and the hollow state of having been backstabbed, it’s something else. David expressed the bitterness of this sort of situation in Psalm 55. “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.”(Psalm 55:12-14)

The end result of this sort of betrayal, I can say from this sort of experience, is usually growing hard-hearted in response. That’s something easy to glance over and read over, but, again, this is something that is a lot more potent when it happens to you than when you read it on a blog. People have the myth in mind that you become cold and emotionally detached from people in this situation just out of anger, spite, or carrying a grudge, but that’s not it. When someone you love seriously wrongs you and leaves you hurting and wounded emotionally as a result, it’s a defensive mechanism. You’re tired of being hurt by these people and you don’t want to hurt anymore. So you block them out of your heart and mind and grow aloof to them, just so that you’re no longer exposed and giving them an opportunity to injure you emotionally…sometimes even physically.

In this case, forgiveness becomes two things. One: it becomes overwhelmingly difficult. You know full well if you open up to this person again you’re exposing a scar and daring them to stab it again, and you’re supposed to trust that they won’t even if they already broke that trust once already…or perhaps even multiple times. There have been incidents when I have forgiven an individual only to have them turn around do the same thing again. Naturally, if they seek forgiveness later after that, it becomes even harder to forgive because now in addition to the increased hurt you have a voice telling you that you’re being a fool for even considering it. (And, in some cases, that’s an accurate statement.)

Two: forgiveness stops even being a factor in the equation. It’s human nature to seek retribution for injury, especially if the injury done to us was particularly painful. I didn’t want to forgive this person; if for no other reason than to make them feel a measure of the hurt it felt like when someone you loved turns away from you so brutally. Why should I want to do anything for them? Why not let them “rot”?

The fact of the matter is right now I’m dealing with whether or not to forgive someone in my own life. This is another individual who has taken past offers of forgiveness and reconciliation and has eventually torn them up and thrown them in the dumpster.Some of the things he did not only hurt ones I love in the emotional sense but the physical one, and there was a time where he was spending more time in jail than holding a job. By most people’s standards, this individual is “human trash” and only an idiot would be willing to give him the time of day no matter how much he claims to have repented. At this point he’s fully in the realm of a lost cause and he should be shunned and avoided; for one’s own protection if nothing else. The fact that he’s back in Church, holding a job, and seeking help for his own mental problems should be irrelevant. It might be good in any case not to trust him, but it also seems perfectly justified to carry bitterness and resentment toward him.To treat him like an unwanted creature and let him know, both verbally and nonverbally, that I will always hate him and shun him.

Yet at times like this, I try to remember the parables of Jesus. Many of them dealt with the topic of forgiveness, and how, difficult as it is, one must be willing to do it. (See the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Matthew 18:21-35). I think about all the times this individual sought forgiveness only to relapse into his old ways, and how the world would say each time is further evidence that I need to hold onto my anger toward this individual and feel justified in shunning him. How the world would render most relationships irreparable after two or three infractions at most. Yet then I think of how many times I asked God to forgive me for a sin only to relapse into it, and I expect God to be just as ready to forgive me not only the second or third time but often the fiftieth or sixtieth time. That is truly why it is said: “To err is human; to forgive divine.”

While there are certain measures one must take to ensure that they are protected from being hurt a second time (because gaining forgiveness is not necessarily the same as gaining trust, and if the only thing different about the individual is them saying they’re sorry without committing to change or getting help they need that is a warning sign), one of the biggest demands Lord Jesus had of us as Christians is to forgive others. However, it was indeed a demand for a Christian way of life and not merely a “suggestion” or “guideline”. Simply put: if we expect God to forgive us, we have to be willing to do the same. C.S. Lewis once said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” That means every time someone turns back to us saying they’re sorry and seeking forgiveness genuinely, even if its for the tenth time in a single day, we have to be willing to give it to them. We have to be willing to be “exposed”. And in some cases, we have to be humble enough to let go of our grudge and past hurt.

Remember, there’s been times in our lives when we’ve all been a “Starlight” or “Trixie” and we sought forgiveness and reconciliation. Let’s keep that in mind when we are faced with the same choice.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I can never thank you enough for the gracious gift of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who died to pay the penalty of all of my sins so that I could have everlasting life and be with you in Heaven forever. Please help me to live every day for you in all ways, and help me to follow the example of Jesus…including in regards to forgiving others. As I have been forgiven, help me always to do the same to others who seek it from me. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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