We want to feel better about ourselves when we mess up. We want others – especially God – to tell us it’s okay and that all is well. And we want to be forgiven so it all goes away like it never happened. But too often we forget something essential in our haste to put whatever it is that we’ve done in our rearview mirror. Forgiveness, while essential to Jesus’ work, is part of a larger process. It begins with our realization of what we’ve done, and how it has hurt others and God. It continues as we repent; making amends and taking steps to head in a new direction. Then our hearts are prepared to receive forgiveness that comes as a gift and is never something we earn. But even this forgiveness is not the last word, because experiencing true forgiveness inevitably leads us to long for a transformed life. Sound complicated? Maybe. But even more importantly, it’s an essential piece of the abundant life Jesus longs for every human being to experience.