Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On forgiveness (Colossians 3:12-13) with a story from the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 3:12-13 (TM)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There's more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.

Forgiveness is hard. Just like any wound the healing process can be painful. Often a scare will remain as a reminder of the injury. It is said that we are suppose to forgive and forget. Really? Is that possible? Isn’t there a scare left on the soul or spirit?

Forgive yes, but forget … not so much. Some use the word “forget” so that the injury to the spirit will not be rehearsed and revisited ... turned over and over until it festers up again and reinjures. That is like picking at a wound. If you pick at it the wound won’t heal completely. But are we really suppose to forget … really forget? God forgives and forgets, but for us that is another matter and here is why:

The injury or act that caused the wound to the spirit in many ways has contributed to making us into who we are. It stands as a marker on our journey through life. What is forgotten is the pain of the injury. What is forgotten is the long process that we went through until our spirit was completely healed. What is forgotten is the hatred and animosity that lingered after the injury. Those things are left on the trash heap of painful memories.

But the injury made us better, stronger and changed the course we are taking through life. Much like the scares after a major surgery. They remain on the body as a reminder that we came close to death and lived to tell about it. Sometimes it means a change of lifestyle – eating differently, exercising more, indulging less – all so that we don’t face the problem again.

And so it is with our injuries to the soul. A hasty word spoken … an ignoble act … a slight of action or inaction … those little things that add up over time resulting in the breakdown between two souls … and ultimately the need for forgiveness. If we forget then it is possible to reinjure … to open the wound again … to continue with the behavior that brought on the broken relationship in the first place.

God forgives and forgets. Aren’t we glad that he does, but as for us it is a wise person who will remember and become stronger in the remembrance.

Thank you for the forgiveness that you offer to us. Thank you for not remembering our foolishness. Now God come and heal our spirit. Lead us down the path that will bring us to forgive our brothers and sisters. 

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