THE FREEDOM FROM OUR WOUNDS, GRUDGES AND RESENTMENTS
Psalm 103:8-12 (NRSV)
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV)
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
Years ago I learned about the wonderful blessing of the recycle bin on my laptop. I had accidentally erased a document and believed I had lost it forever. I was thrilled when Jim showed me that I could find the document and restore it from the recycle bin! Since then, I am less anxious about deleting items- documents, emails, photos- because I know I can still find them if I need them.
Recently I have been comparing the practice of forgiveness to the recycle bin. Jesus came to free us from the burdens of grudges, resentments and wounds that we carry. Jesus frees us through the healing practice of forgiveness. Jesus frees us from our sins, and so we are to forgive others. In doing so, we find that we are further freed from these burdens of hurt that weigh us down! Forgiveness is a gift for the wounder and the wounded.
But how often is our act of forgiveness like the initial and superficial deleting of a file? We remove the transgression like a document from our regular files, but we feel the need to store it away in case we need it in the future. And when another transgression comes our way, we quickly go back to the recycle bin and restore all the old transgression files we once deleted!
When Jesus tells Peter that he should forgive someone seventy-seven times, my first thought is that I should forgive someone even if they hurt me seventy-seven times. Could Jesus be saying that it might take us seventy-seven times (or more) to fully forgive ONE transgression? Jesus knows our tendency to dredge up the past hurts again and again. Jesus knows about our personal recycle bins. Jesus understands, but he shows us a better way.
My laptop recycle bin is getting quite full. I know I need to empty the bin, and yet there is that anxiety about losing something forever. Right now, the full bin isn’t a problem; I still have plenty of storage space on my laptop. However, I would be motivated to empty the recycle bin if I happen to find a helpful or exciting new file that needs the extra data storage space.
Maybe that’s how we can foster the emptying of those recycle bins of our resentments, hurts and grudges. We first imagine how we might fill the emptied storage space with good files. We could decide to completely delete the wounds in order to make space for joy and healing. Or completely delete the grudges to make space for openness and creativity. Or completely delete the resentments to make space for intellect or beauty. We can choose to empty our recycle bins in order to refill them with something better.
God shows us through Jesus that we are FULLY forgiven. Our transgressions have been deleted AND the recycle bins have been emptied. The deleted files have been replaced with files of grace, love, mercy, kindness. Jesus wants us to love, forgive, and live that way, too. May our spaces be filled with radiant splendor… as we choose to forgive in quiet surrender.