"When I first met you, I didn't like you. I didn't understand why you were here and why you were nice. And I knew you were religious, and I hated religion. I was an ass to you. I'm sorry."
I replied, "Thank you for that, but I don't remember you as an ass. I get everything you say. We are taught that nothing is free, so you wondered what my motivation is. Lots of people do. That's why you'll hear me say all the time, 'My desire is to see you more stable, sober, reconnected with God, and finding a faith community when you want it.' "
He asked a question, "Do you think there are any unforgivable sins?" This is a common question. I answered, "Jesus said blasphemy of the Spirit is unforgivable. But people aren't in agreement what he meant.
Here is my take based on the whole of the Bible. God loves you but God does not abide evil. Evil must be away from him. So we are put away from him, we separate ourselves when we are evil. And it's not God that goes anywhere. It's us. It's as if I turned my back to you right now. Our conversation would stop. And if I had wronged you, you would not forgive me because we would not be talking. However, when I turn around, we can talk again. And probably no matter what I've done to you, if we have a safe new relationship, you probably would forgive me in time."
He thought about this, "Yes, I have learned to forgive a lot of things as I get older." He is 20 years old. "I can forgive hurting me. I have forgiven stealing from me. I can forgive a lot. I think my line would be child abuse. I couldn't forgive that."
I replied, "I understand. But I've seen people who eventually have a safe relationship with their abuser and forgive them. It's not easy and I'm not saying it is required. But forgiving someone releases a burden that you carry with you until you are able to forgive. Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting or trusting."
I explained, "Forgiveness begins in a vertical mode, between you and God, or within you. It doesn't involve the person who wronged you at all. It sounds like you may have done this vertical part now." He jumped in, "Yes! It feels like a weight just dropped off me when I realized this." I agreed and continued, "You may eventually have the chance to work on horizontal forgiveness with this person. It sounds like you'd like that. Sometime the person isn't safe, isn't available, or even isn't alive. Then it's hard to do the horizontal part and sometimes the vertical forgiveness has to be enough. But when you have a safe relationship of some sort with the person, the horizontal forgiveness can lead to good things sometimes."
We closed by talking about what he wants from the future. "I don't want to turn out like my family. But I find myself wanting a family. It scares me to death. I want a house and kids and a wife. I'm changing." I smiled: "It's all normal, dude. The street was a safe place for you. It was sweet freedom for you at a time when you needed it, but most people can't stay here forever. You're right on track. Keep exploring those things. I believe you're going to make it out of here. I bet in the next year." He replied, "I hope so!"
I pray for this client. His questions suggest he needs to be able to forgive himself and those who hurt him in order to move forward. He is super smart and capable. His thought suggest he is growing by leaps and bounds. I pray he continues to do this and has great dreams and visions about his future.
It's such a privilege to serve him.