“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
The ultimate inverse of the gospel is that in order to find life, you have to lose it. This idea is woven throughout the life and teachings of Jesus. It’s a Biblical truth that also lives in forgiveness.
In her book Rising Strong, Brené Brown illuminates this idea while reflecting on a sermon by her pastor, Joe:
“I was at church listening to Joe talk about forgiveness. He was sharing his experience of counseling a couple who were on the brink of divorce after the woman discovered that her husband was having an affair. They were both devastated by the potential end of their marriage, but she couldn’t forgive him for betraying her, and he couldn’t seem to forgive himself, either. Joe looked up and said, ‘In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face the pain. You simply have to hurt.’
The death or ending that forgiveness necessitates comes in many shapes and forms. We may need to bury our expectations… We may need to relinquish the power that comes with ‘being right’ or put to rest the idea that we can do what’s in our hearts and still retain the support or approval of others. I instantly buried my head in my hands… At that moment it struck me: Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves grief…Given the dark fears we feel when we experience loss, nothing is more generous and loving than the willingness to embrace grief in order to forgive. To be forgiven is to be loved.”
The work of forgiveness and the work of grief are interwoven. Neither is linear. Both have a way of springing up long after we thought they were done. And with God as our companion, both will lead us to love and compassion.
“Dear God, what do I need to grieve in order to forgive? Amen”