Imagine pulling down the big screen at the front of your church, your work place, or the big screen tv (or little screen) in your home. It is your birthday party and there is to be a slideshow. Turn it on, the picture comes in to focus and instead of a slideshow of your best moments and memories, your accolades, awards and resume features, instead of all those glorious moments, are every shameful act, thought, conversation. The things that you never told a soul. Or the things you did with others that you never thought would surface again.
Considering the ease of publishing words and photos on the internet, it is not tough to imagine our lives broadcast before the world. In fact, if someone really wanted to drag my character through the mud, they could.
As I imagine this myself, moments from my 12th birthday through 18th flash in my memory. Many who may read this knew me then. Many know things I may be thinking of. I could hang everybit of dirty laundry on the line to be read. However, I know each article that could be hung, and so does God. He has seen my list. I know my list, each one knows their own. It has been hung before Him. It was hung on Him and was blotted out in red stains of innocent blood.
This morning in Sunday school, our class read about unforgiveness from Matthew 18 and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. We discussed why it is so hard to forgive. Talk about a topic to make a person squirm. Unforgiveness. I can feel so justified by my unwillingness to forgive, so self-righteous, so much like I am better than the person that I choose not to forgive. As long as I hang on to that offense, I feel a twisted pleasure in my bitterness and I can allow it to swell into a storm of anger, malice, wrath, and just bathe my spirit in the digestive acid of unforgiveness. In Matthew, it tells me that if I choose not to forgive I will be like the unmerciful servant turned over to the jailers to be tortured. A prisoner by my own choice. Captive. Tortured.
Christians are taught here by Christ to be forgiving people. Gulp. Yet we find it so hard to forgive. Is it any wonder, when I look at my own struggles with unforgiveness, why people outside of the church do not want to join? Is it any wonder why one of the main reasons people choose not to attend church or believe in, accept and follow Christ, is because they feel judged by Christians?
Pharisee in modern day clothing.
My unforgiveness is rooted in all of that.
Oooo. It feels soooo justified though. It feels so right. Because what that person did was SO WRONG! I just want to hang on to it. To nurse it. It is soooo deceptive.
So, how can I forgive? Back to my dirty laundry slideshow. I visited my own slideshow in my mind this week, wrote about it in my journal, listed it, walked through it with the guidance of an incredibly, merciful Holy Spirit.
Why dig up the past? Why dig up "high school stuff"? First, because it it reveals my own desperate need of forgiveness for the tangled web of messed up motives of an immature selfish-hearted girl. Desperate need for salvation that I have taken for granted. No exuses for that tangled web of all-out sin. And in seeing myself for who and what I was, I am humbled by the unending, merciful grace and pure love of God who saw me in all of that and gave the life of His innocent Son so that I would not be punished for that, but saved from it and given a fresh, new life. That, my messed up life, is what I, like the woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears, her hair and her perfume had to give Him. I have been forgiven much. I did not deserve it. I am among those of whom Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Secondly, I dig up the past to create new fertile soil. Because unplowed ground is hard and impenetrable. And ground plowed just a little bit is shallow. But digging deep and turning it over and stirring up the manure of my past makes a fertilized soil. Digging it up with two sets of hands on the shovel, mine and Jesus. Because I failed to "do business with the past", I rolled my "high school" motives right on into my marriage and my career. The junk of old beliefs and motives just manifested itself in new places. I cannot leave the past until I know the real and deep things that need to be let go of. If I do not examine the past, I end up keeping the old beliefs in which my actions are rooted. And then, it is just like pulling a weed without the root. The root just gets deeper and bigger and stronger and the behavior, the ugly weed, just keeps coming up again. Using the shovel with Christ, is different than doing it alone because it is on that journey of digging with Him, that my armor is fortified because we get to the root. When He is with me, my belt of truth is strengthend and fits because I'm not trying to fit it over the top of lies, and my sheild of faith quenches the darts that the enemy would like to fire at me about my past (Eph. 6). With Him, He is my sheild of faith and I can look at my past to gain wisdom for the future and that wisdom includes the wise choice of entering forgiveness. I can see my need for forgiveness from others and from God. So, by looking in the piercing mirror seeing my own reflection, I find it somehow, miraculously, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, possible to forgive those who hurt me deeply.