A Future Defined by Forgiveness
This past week, we begin the Season of Lent, the time of year in which we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in anticipation of celebrating his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. For the church, Lent has always been a time of reflection and repentance. The music we sing takes on a more somber tone and the messages we hear focus more and more on our need to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. After all, forgiveness lies at the heart of what Christ’s death and resurrection is all about. In addition to our focusing on our need for forgiveness, I want to invite us, during this Lenten Season, to also think about our need to forgive. After all, being forgiven and forgiving others goes hand in hand.
I recently heard a quote that got me thinking along these lines. “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” This statement reminds us that when we forgive others we do so, not in order to erase what has happened in the past, but to open up the possibility of what may occur in the future. When someone hurts us, the deed is done and nothing is going to change that fact. Forgiveness does not cause the past to be changed so that the hurt never occurred. Instead, forgiveness provides for the possibility that the hurt will be kept in the past and the lingering effects of that hurt will not continue to cause us pain as we move into the future. The reality is that when we are hurt by someone we tend to continue carrying that pain with us into the future and the more we carry that pain the more we allow our lives to be defined by that pain. A life defined by such pain becomes narrower and narrower the longer we carry it around with us because the pain itself causes our souls to shrink. Eventually the pain can consume everything including our relationships with others so that in the end we are left with very little. When we forgive, however, the future has an opportunity to open up for us.
It is important to remember that when we forgive another person, we do not validate or excuse the hurt that the other person has caused us. Instead forgiveness places that hurt where it belongs, in the past, so that as we move into the future, we do so without the burden of having to carry that pain with us. Without such a burden, our lives can be defined by such things as love, joy, peace, and grace. The wonderful thing about love, joy, peace, and grace is that they cause the soul to grow larger and we find that we can embrace life more and more.
How do we forgiven in order that our future may enlarge? The answer lies in the promise that Jesus gave to us. Jesus invited us to ask, to seek, and to knock. In prayer we seek and ask for the help we need in order to forgive others and we do not stop asking and seeking until that help comes our way. So, during this season of Lent, as we explore our own need to be forgiven, may we also explore our own need to forgive.