Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Forgiveness, Forgetfulness is a Good Thing--or Rather, a "God Thing"

I got to give my testimony tonight...though when I started I could feel a bit of blushing rising up my face, once I got into it, I really enjoyed the privilege. It isn't only for the benefit of those who hear, but a good reminder of where I was and what God has done for me.
My biggest sin issue I recall being aware of and needing to overcome was bitterness, grudges, unforgiveness. I was bitter at many people, at some for their sheer mean treatment, and at some for perceived unfairness. There was one about whom I recall thinking I could have written a book, a large book, cataloguing the many crimes against me that she had committed. To think I would have thought anyone would want to read it! That boggles my mind now.
My biggest offender was the wife of a pastor. (Not a believing pastor or a believing wife--but I didn't know that at the time.) So one of my first responses was to look in the Bible, of which I knew nothing, to find a justification for how I felt about her--that would have been the ultimate, I thought. I believe that was my first real impetus to read the Bible, and I don't think I had accepted that Jesus could save me at that point. Pretty unholy, but there it was. And I have to say, I found nothing in the Bible to help me in that goal.
Once I came to accept the salvation offered by Christ, I slowly realized that those bitternesses were a huge and awful burden. They weren't a burden to those against whom I had grudges; they were my burden, and I carried them everywhere. I'd take those burdens into my lap and look at them, mulling them over, reminding myself of their every detail. I'd mutter and ponder and think what clever things I should have said, and how they might have responded then. It took way too much mental energy; it drained me, and I realized after a while how these burdens ate away at me, at my mental health, probably at my physical health; I don't know how much I realized they were horrible for my spiritual health. After a while I wanted to be rid of them, I wanted to forget them. But how?
How does a person forgive another who has wronged them? How about when the wrongs have been very cruel, and many, and long-persisting? How can a person go on and forgive? It was a puzzle for me at first, when I first realized I had to have some release from the prison full of nastiness. How could I think to forgive?
After I accepted Christ, I wanted to read the Bible--this time to know Him, to know everything I could take in. I read it for hours every day for a long time, and though my housework was suffering in the process, I was learning and growing, and coming to realize the vast cosmic offenses that I had committed against Jesus Christ, who loved me all the time that I was acting in pure selfishness. I realized He had forgiven me, died to do so, though it seemed there was no gain in it for Him. How or why He chose to do this still isn't fully clear to me, except that His love is a whole lot bigger than mine!
After a while I was able to contrast His forgiveness with my lack of forgiveness; my big sins against His holiness with her sins against my selfishness. There became less and less justification to keep track of all she had committed against me. Still, I struggled with the idea that I could forgive while I still remembered so many things. They'd come back to mind, and I'd have to deal with them all over again. That was one of the first things I learned about forgiveness--sometimes you have to do it over and over and over again for the same incident.
It seems almost comical, and it is very telling to me, that I could think of writing a huge book regarding anyone's sins against me. God is gracious. I remember back then, telling my brother that thanks to God's help I could forgive, but unlike Him, I couldn't forget. God could forgive sins, but He could also forget them, and I thought of that as an unchangeable contrast between Him and me.
Over time, the wonderful thing that I have discovered is that God has helped me to forget. Not only forget the woman's sins, but the grudges I was harboring against so many! I honestly don't remember enough to write out a small article enumerating them. Once in a while a few specific things might come to mind because of some specific reminder (and they are so trivial now as to be comical!), but by and large the memories are lost. Lost and good riddance to bad rubbish! In the extreme. Hallelujah! God is good. But of course, we knew that!

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