I don’t listen to a ton of music, but every once in a while, I come across an album that just captures me. I almost get obsessed with it. I’ll put it on repeat and listen to it so many times that I memorize every word, every instrumental break, and every transition on the record. I saturate my mind with it until I finally, eventually, maybe get it out of my system.
I recently experienced this phenomenon with an album called Solar by Christian hip hop artist nobigdyl. His music is catchy and fun for the most part, but there’s a depth to everything he does that draws me in. The track that has particularly stuck with me is one towards the end of the album called “Close.” It’s a very personal song in which the artist openly confesses his sin and the pain that it’s caused. Upon listening, I was struck by its honesty and vulnerability. So I put it on loop and really let it sink in.
nobigdyl. directs the first verse towards his wife. He confesses that he’s been keeping secrets from her, going so far as to say that he put his vows to the side. His sin has led him to the brink of suicide. In his despair, he tells his wife that she would be better off without him, that she should leave him and move on.
And then we get a beautiful image. His wife grabs him by the face. He can feel her wedding band pushing into his jaw. She tells him she isn’t going anywhere, no matter what he’s done. Then, looking into each other’s eyes, they have this conversation:
I said, “Baby girl, you don’t have to take this.”
She said, “Boy, you’re gonna have to face it.”
When I heard that line, I was blown away and a little confused. The verse seems like it’s moving towards forgiveness, and then it suddenly ends with the victim telling the perpetrator that he’s going to have to deal with what he’s done.
It happens in the second verse, too. There, the artist is talking to God about his struggles and his feelings of inadequacy. He feels completely lost, and he knows it’s all his fault. Suddenly, he feels the Spirit of God speaking to him, assuring him that all the bad things he’s done are already forgiven by Christ’s work on the cross. Then they have this exchange:
I said, “Lord, I cannot repay this.”
He said, “Boy, you’re gonna have to face it.”
I forgive you for what you’ve done; you’re going to have to face it. These statements may strike you as contradictory at first. They certainly did me. That’s part of the reason I listened to the song so many times. And the more I listened and reflected on it, the more it made sense.
We often think of forgiveness as letting people off the hook. Letting things go. Forgetting that the offense ever happened. We think that once someone says, “I forgive you,” that’s the end of it. What’s done is done, and there’s never any need to address it again. I’m not so sure.
This viewpoint portrays forgiveness as the end of a journey. Something bad has happened, it’s been worked through, and now it’s time to forgive and forget. Maybe that works for some people. But in my experience (and, if I’m not mistaken, the experience of this artist), forgiveness is much less the end of a process than it is the beginning of one.
Forgiving someone doesn’t happen once they’ve made things right. After all, if things have already been made aright, what is there to forgive? Grace isn’t meant to be withheld until it’s earned; otherwise, it’s no grace at all. Really, it’s meant to be the first step of many.
When we choose to forgive someone, we aren’t saying that what they did is OK. We aren’t saying that we’ve healed from the effects of their actions. We aren’t saying that every part of the relationship has been restored. Instead, we’re saying, “I’m not giving up on you because of this. Together, we’re going to do the hard work of fixing the damage that you’ve done. I’m here.”
Ultimately, forgiveness is costly. It costs both the person forgiving and the person being forgiven. Rather than ignore what happened or just give up altogether, both parties are choosing to face the reality of their situation and deal with it head-on. To confront the underlying issues at play, fix the problems rather than the symptoms, and heal the hurt through time and togetherness. It’s probably the most painful way forward, but it’s also the one that leads to reconciliation. As the chorus of the song says,
I wanna hold you close.
I’ll never let you go.
Come let me in your arms.
I wanna hold you close.
Forgiveness costs a lot. But it’s worth every bit, because it’s the only way to truly find healing and wholeness in this life. Whether it means fixing mistakes that we’ve made or offering grace to a loved one who’s wronged us, may we each choose to do the hard work of forgiveness, today and every day.