Forgiveness: what a word!!!
I stood before the thirty summer staffers in the camp dining hall. We had all just returned from a great weekend in Houston. It was now time to return to the world of camp and get ready for 400 campers arriving the next morning.
During our Houston weekend I’d shared mini-devotions on Joseph. After returning to the camp and observing the happy but tired faces of these teens and college students, I had hesitated to continue these studies on the attributes. But in my heart I felt God tugging telling me to share.
The subject of tonight’s devotion was forgiveness. As we reviewed the long laundry list of injustices brought down on Joseph in Genesis 37-50, I was once again amazed at how this story touches listeners of all ages.
As we shared about the importance and necessity of forgiveness, I noticed one of our counselors, Ashley. She was sitting on the front row weeping quietly. I wondered as to what had been said that upset her. For the rest of the devotion she cried with her head down.
It was later that evening that I learned from her about why she was crying. She related a sad tale of being sexually abused as a young preteen. The fact that it was a trusted family friend and nothing had been done to bring about closure or justice only added to her pain as she cried.
Ashley told how she had been the cabin counselor in last week’s camp. Under her care was a group of girls who had just been part of a terrible sexual molestation situation in their church. As Ashley began to minister to these girls, many “deep below the surface feelings” began to bubble to the surface of her consciousness.
And Sunday’s night devotion on forgiveness brought these deep emotional hurts to her heart where they came out as tears.
That week, and in the remaining weeks of camp, Ashley taught me a great deal about forgiveness. I was reminded that of all the human actions/reactions/emotions- the ability to forgive may be the greatest.
It is true that to err is human, but to forgive is divine. Who else but the powerful hand of God can move a human heart to forgive a terrible sin?
It was during these weeks of August that I came to, for the first time, truly realize what forgiveness is: It is not forgetting….
God gave us a wonderful gift called the human mind. It is created to remember. That is both good and bad. But he also gave our human heart an equally amazing gift- the ability to forgive and move on.
God taught me a lesson through Ashley: We are to build a bridge of forgiveness and “get over it.” By that I mean, the bridge of forgiveness allows us to walk away from the bitterness.
To get over it. Both literally and figuratively.
You see, forgiveness is not forgetting. It is reaching the point where you say, “It doesn’t really matter.”
When you can state that, the healing power of forgiveness sweeps over us.
On our hero, Joseph: I believe it is when he saw God’s hand working in, and around him.
How many nights did he look up at the night sky and stars and wonder why his brothers had done this to him?
How many nights did he stare up at the blank ceiling in Potiphar’s house and wonder where God was and why he had allowed this to happen?
Forgiveness is a process. Not overnight
It starts when you can pray for the offender by name (and not pray that God will strike him down)
For two years in the dirty prison as he waited day by day for the King’s cupbearer to return and free him, did he silently want to curse that man, Potiphar, the wicked woman, and maybe even God?
However, that same God who helped Joseph is standing ready to help you forgive.
His Son Jesus, who cried out, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” stands ready to help you.