This is a guest blog from Whitney Foreman, a missionary working in Nicaragua. She writes at http://creoentinica.wordpress.com/
Forgiveness: to forgive is to completely give up something, holding nothing back and to expect nothing in return.
The following story has been resonating in my heart a lot lately. There’s not much I personally want to add, the story itself and a few paragraphs from Graham complete all I want to press into our hearts today-The release that comes from forgiveness.
I believe it’s one of the most overlooked gifts we have from Jesus. Most of the time the act of forgiveness just lays to rest in the back of our mind while our fists stays clinched. From that place anger stems and hate is activated in our hearts over and over again while you find yourself in selfishness. The thought that commonly retrieves us from forgiving: we’re punishing the other person by holding anger. In reality, you’re rotting your own heart. It’s spiritual poison that we’re all guilty of.
I’m not saying it’s always easy, or it’s ever easy. You’re pretty much going against human nature and maybe the opinions of those around you. But the truth is, you will never know complete freedom until forgiveness. To be free, to move on, to heal, one must eventually forgive.
Last summer in Nicaragua, I met a man who was visiting us from the states. He had one of the most redemptive stories of forgiveness I have ever heard. As I was planning a continuum on teaching forgiveness for the youth, he sat down next to me, he said “I have a pretty great good story about forgiveness…but I’ve never spoken it to a group before”.
I asked him if he would share his story. As he spoke, peace was present in his eyes, his heart no longer held anger. The magnitude of forgiveness left my heart pounding, but his words came meek, he simply chose to forgive. A man released from those heavy breaths of anger, a mind freed from ruin. It humbled me to my core. His heart was full as he told us the day he chose.
Here’s his story, in his words.
“Growing up there was no one like my brother. He was the man that I wanted to be like, but he was also my best friend. We did a lot together, camping, fishing, and so much more. He was instrumental in me restoring a 1913 Ford Model T. My very first date was a double date with my brother. He did everything he could to make my growing up years special. Naturally, I wanted to give back a little because he gave me so much.
In 1979, a friend and I were guarding antique cars for a car club that was on a tour. I saw a cute single gal with a passion for antique cars. She was about my brother’s age. I arranged for my brother to drop me off in his 1914 Model T. (My brother and I planned to tour the United States in our antique cars.) They hit it off immediately and were married in 6 months.
Even after they were married, my brother and I still did things together and I even lived with them for a while. We parted ways when I joined the Navy. I chose the Navy because….yep….he also served in the Navy. It was less than a year after that when I got called into the commander’s office and was told my brother was dead. My world collapsed. I just spoke with him two days before.
Later, I found out that she (his wife) was waiting for him in a dark house and she shot him twice. Denial turned to hatred. Nothing like what I have ever felt before or since. I know, without a doubt, that if she was in the area, the hatred would have revealed itself in the vilest of manners. This hatred consumed me. There was no love inside of me. It was like a dark pit and as time went on, it became darker and deeper. I tried counseling, getting away by buying things to make life fun, and many other things. I spent the next year grieving or plotting, mostly plotting. She had taken away the best friend I would ever have.
One year after my brother’s death, I was visited by my new Best Friend who loved me despite the hatred that enveloped me. He brought me to a group of new brothers and sisters. And above all else, He taught me about forgiveness. That week, I forgave my sister-in-law, both privately and publically and there was light that I hadn’t seen for a long time.”
Whew. I have heard many stories like this, but as I sat in his presence I could feel the nature of our Jesus surrounding him strong. The power of forgiveness was destroying everyone who listened.
It is understandable that prior to not knowing Jesus, he had no motivation to forgive. But what twists my heart inside out is the fact that even I, apart of the most massive story of forgiveness known to man, wrestle with the act in most situations. Not even in situations has heartbreaking as the story above, but even in the minutest circumstances.
He met Jesus, he forgave and he was free.
This is my desire, to be the best at forgiving. Whether it’s forgiving someone in particular, your parents or maybe your church, forgiveness is the only way to know relief. This might rub you the wrong way, and I do, with all my heart, care what happened to you.
I challenge myself, walk freely in forgiveness. May I be eager to forgive. Jesus, restore those tattered areas of our hearts and let your unfettered grace be known in our lives. Let our hearts finally make room for the newness we’ve been crying out for.
A little Graham Cooke to help the process…
My beloved one. How can you be depressed by your own sinfulness when the wonders and joy of my mercy are freely available? Dear one, why be nailed by the enemy when the keys of my unfettered grace can open ever prison in your life? Why be subject to the relentless condemnation of the evil one when then love of the one who is almighty is yours to delight in? Do you not know the enemy is defeated? Do you not appreciate that you are endlessly forgiven? I am going to peel away this part of your life and expose the grace that is freely available. I am not obsessed by sin; I have dealt with it by judging Christ. I am obsessed by you loving my grace and experiencing the joy of my life within your heart. You have always been forgiven. You must learn to forgive yourself. Become as gracious as your God. Do not nail other people (even if you legitimately can) but be endlessly forgiving. Those who forgive much also love much. Enjoy forgiveness, revel in it! I am not disillusioned with you, for I never had any illusions about you. I have always understood who you are and the struggles you face. Why would I not love you, since I am love itself?