Meeting a friend for coffee on one sunny afternoon, I was happily sitting at a table for two surrounded by people busy with their laptops, journals, and losing myself in thought while conversations buzzed around me in a pleasant hum. I looked toward the front to see her at the counter ordering something decadent as I sipped carefully at a black Grande coffee. Venti cup, add hot water, no room for cream.
In the middle of this quiet, peaceful moment, a pair of glass and steel double doors opened with a whoosh and in walked That Man.
Instantly, my blood boiled, my heart raced, and my fingers tightened dangerously around a paper cup of very hot coffee. It took all I had not to stand up and make a scene.
I settled for the deadpan, “I’ve never met you before, you aren’t even interesting, and you mean less than a hairball to me” look. It somehow seemed appropriate and really helped me not to feel powerless when forcefully reminded of the pain and injustice he represented to me, to my family, and to so many others in this community.
Surely that is what bitterness looks like, right? How could someone who had forgiven remember a litany of situations?
The dull roar of a thousand sermons rings out that, “Love “… keeps no record of wrongs.” I Cor 13:5 (CJB)
Except, Paul was talking about courtrooms and lawsuits between believers. That, liebchen, that is a whole other kettle of fish.
If it were reasonable, or even POSSIBLE to expect someone to forget when they have been wounded, then there would be no need for a Wonderful Counselor, David would have had no reason to write Psalm 41, and Jesus wouldn’t have whipped money changers.
When all has been forgiven and laid to rest in the past/future, it should never, ever, EVAR be spoken of again.
But, that isn’t how we are made.
When life hurts we store everything about it somewhere deep inside. Sometimes more clearly than delirious happiness. Even when we lose the sharpness of a memorized statement, bruised feelings, aching hearts, and bitter tears will echo back through our mind’s eye.
Oh, yes, we remember.
Yet, there is a lie, this one, and it is a bitterly ugly thing:
“Forgiveness means I forget everything you did to hurt me”and this monstrosity keeps us held hostage to unexamined and unresolved, well, everything.
And that, oh, THAT is an ugly thing.
Mindlessly standing over a steaming sink of dishes, hands covered in bubbles, heart shredded, I choked out a single statement over and over,
“Brian, they broke me. How could they break me?”
I will never forget that moment, his pale face, and how powerless and trampled I felt. It was as though I had been gutted.
Somehow, in spite of all the anguish, many of the faces involved in that moment of excruciating pain have become dear to me again. We don’t think about that situation or those terrible months very often anymore. We have rebuilt.
There was forgiveness offered and received within weeks of that initial situation. There has been forgiveness walked out for over 7 years.
But forgetting? Could we turn hours into emptiness? Could we force this situation to be simply disappeared from our collective consciousness? Not possible.
Forgetting pain is not only impossible, I believe it is wrong.
To dismiss the pain endured, survived, or even caused, can carry the weight of losing a priceless opportunity to develop empathy. Our emotional reservoir for compassion is quickly depleted without a focused, intentional, influx of healthy empathy.
There’s another reason forgetting is wrong.
By not only suppressing the harshness of our experience but abandoning it’s lessons, we lose the wisdom and discernment that can be ours through retrospect. God, who is often invisible to us in the present, becomes very tangible, very real, very present when we see Him from the windows of our future selves.
Practicing forgetfulness makes us lose sight of moments with a distinct potential to become cornerstones, foundations, and hedges of protection.
Fundamentally? If we are going to be naked here?
We don’t really forget. We just refuse to look at this ugly thing. By denying it, and pressing it down, hiding it behind a stoic front, and waiting for it to abscess we are setting a timer for our own destruction. Eventually, it will spill putrid bitterness and impotent rage onto everyone in our path and we will become the very thing we have dedicated ourselves to not becoming.
How can we be different?
Grace demands a higher price than the emptiness of avoidance when it has covered a broken spirit. Grace demands that we remember and yet, still choose to love.
See, because I remember and yet have forgiven,when That Man crosses my path and I recoil from his unrepentant actions? I still pray for God’s blessing, kindness, and love to be abundant in his life.
Forgiveness Means Instant Reconciliation
See the rest of the series:
The Lies We Tell Ourselves About Forgiveness
Forgiveness Means I Should Pretend Nothing Bad Happened
Forgiveness Doesn’t Equal Reconciliation