“You can’t go back and change it… whatever mistakes or hurt has happened… we need to release those memories and move forward… ,” our special guest speaker pointed out. The topic was on forgiveness.
My initial reaction was a bit apathetic. It sounded good, but how does that actually happen? What does forgiveness look like and how long does it take?
As I went through my mental checklist of people who have hurt me, I felt I had already done the work of forgiveness.
Then, the speaker talked about recordings we like to unwind. How we replay the offenses that were committed against us. As if activated by remote control, I unexpectedly felt a wave of painful memories flood me. The hurt still stung, as if it happened to me yesterday.
I think God is calling me to go deeper in my forgiveness, so that it’s not just an act of the will, but a release of the heart.
I realize I still have some worn out, replayed tape recordings in the media cabinet of my heart labeled, “hurts”.
Forgetting What Is Behind
It has been twelve years since I stepped onto US soil again, after a stint from the mission field in Hong Kong. What happened during the time I served as a youth worker in Asia and my return back has been tightly held secret. A private pain that blew up my confidence in the church, people and myself.
Since returning, I tried to erase the memory of the past, by creating new ones. Some words from Paul, the apostle, echo my desire:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Phillipians 3:13-14
Getting out of the past by doing something new was a good for me. I placed my hope in the passage of time, to dull the hurt and callous the scars. Like Moses fleeing away from the disappointment of what-might-have-been, I ran into the the comfort and anonymity of a personal desert. I submerged myself into a corner of silence and solitude, clinging to God and no one else.
I attended a new church, a community of believers who were gracious, caring and respecting of privacy. I was pierced by community. I needed to be healed by it once more. Somehow, Lord, heal, and lead me back.
Finding Fellowship and Faith
It took a lot of time, aloneness, and everyday small conversations, but the group of believers there loved me back to health. In spite of my brokenness, my love for God and seeing people feel valued, survived and grew stronger than ever before. God is bigger than my losses and disappointments, but the journey required that I hit bottom first.
Looking back, my heart being blown to bits and my confidence in people shattering beyond repair was a good thing. Not because hurt and betrayal were a part of God’s will.
I learned through suffering that God values me more than my service. Faith no longer was a means to serve, but became the loving heartbeat of a God, calling me back to be the Beloved.
Release of the Heart
I have forgiven as an act of faith in the past, by moving forward with my life. It’s been over a decade, with much joy and thanksgiving. I think God is now telling me that I am ready to forgive in my heart, by releasing those sad memories and rewriting them in a new way.
I need to get rid of those old tapes and do away with rewinding the wounding, even if they are a part of my story.
Yes, I know I can’t go back and change the past. But, the fact is that I have been changed by the bad that has happened.
How can I rewrite those memories and see the goodness out of the brokenness?
Am I willing to let go of wrongdoings and exchange them for forgiveness?
I am, because I know God has something better for me than my old dreams of tomorrow.
“He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” ~ Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
What are your experiences with forgiveness?
During this season of hope and peace, let us rest in the forgiveness God sent to us: rewriting our lives with Emmanuel, God with us.