All of my life I have been told I am required, as a Christian, to “forgive and forget.” I’ve often wondered if Christ realized what he was asking of us. I mean, really, I’m supposed to forgive someone who tried to put my head through a door? I’m supposed to forgive the one who tormented me for many years with molestation of my young body? I mean, really? I’ve studied my Bible thoroughly, paying special attention to the red letters in the four gospels. We are clearly told that in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive the one who has wronged us. I am open to correction, really I am. After looking and studying, nowhere have I found we are required to forget the wrongs. We don’t fret and ponder and mull them over on a continuous basis, pouting and singing, “Poor, poor pitiful me,” but rather, we can utilize them as learning tools so that we do not make poor choices or mistakes in the future regarding similar circumstances or people. But, yeah, the forgiving? We pretty much have to do that. It’s not an optional selection, as in “One from Column A…”
It did not come easily, and quite candidly, it didn’t come willingly at first. I just know I kept reading, over and over, “To be forgiven, you must first forgive . . .” I mean, every time I opened my Bible it was like the Holy Spirit of God was getting in my face, saying, “Are we ever going to confront this thorn in your side, or are you quite happy living out the remainder of your life seeing yourself as a victim?” To that I replied, “Ouch! Not so fast. You don’t understand . . .,” and then I realized how ridiculous I must have sounded. I mean, the Sovereign Creator of the whole entire universe who created me, every cell and fiber of me, would not understand His very creation? Silly of me, huh?
So, strictly to clear my conscience and get Him off my back, I cut a deal with God. It went something like this: “Okay, God. You know and I know there is absolutely not a part of me, down to the smallest atom, that wants to or is willing to even consider forgiving those slime balls. I have suffered irreparable harm and damage, and nothing in me feels I should be asked to extend forgiveness.” Well, you know how God gets. He just remained silent. I hate it when He does that. It means I have to stew in my own juices and face the music, confront the issues. He’s there waiting for me to come around, but it’s my call. That’s the free will part.
“Okay, God, here’s the deal. I give you permission to plant a seed of forgiveness in my heart and cause it to grow.” Now, first off, I was giving God permission? Like He needed permission? Well, I didn’t want to miss making it into Heaven, and quite honestly, I did not want to disappoint my Heavenly Father, either. So, every day, sometimes more than once a day, I’d pray again, “I give you permission to plant a seed of forgiveness in my heart and cause it to grow.”
It took many months, but eventually I started actually meaning the words I was praying. Then, from out of nowhere, I found myself ending the prayer with, “. . . and Father, please send others to speak to their hearts and share your Word and your Love, bringing them to salvation.” Dang! Amazing! First of all, God didn’t just zap me when I was preposterous enough to think He needed my permission to work in my life, and secondly, how remarkable to see and consider the mountains that can be moved when you just step out in childlike faith, saying, “Okay, God. You take the wheel. It’s all yours. I’ll be over here for the ride.”
Then came epiphany! It took far too many years, but once I got it, I really GOT IT! Forgiving is releasing the offender from his/her power and control over your mind, heart, emotions, and sometimes, even your body. As long as we hold anger, animosity, or resentment, they still win! They still maintain a level of control over me, over us.
As if that were enough, then the larger lesson came. By extending forgiveness, I found a level of freedom that I never dreamed was possible. It was not in and of myself, but rather came from my deference to God and His power to work such a thing. He does good work!
Remarkably, I have not been required to forget the past, but rather to move forward from it. It is a place for learning from, not living in. The lessons from my past have now been turned to be used in helping other victims of molestation and/or domestic violence. In the meantime, I get to be free to be me, the “me” that God our Divine Creator meant for me to be all along! How great is that?