On a daily basis your mind forgets a tremendous amount of information simply to prevent insanity. As a matter of fact, in about a week’s time, the vast majority of us will forget 90% of what we experienced today. No doubt some of you are thinking, “I’ll forget 90% of today by the time my head reaches the pillow tonight!” You will forget where you put your keys or find yourself asking, “Where is that pen?” You might forget an appointment, a birthday, or an anniversary. You might momentarily forget your child’s name or your phone number. With all this forgetting, why is it that we cannot seem to forget the things we WANT to forget?
For much of my life, I had been taught the importance of forgiveness. I had been told of the numerous passages of Scripture wherein we are commanded to forgive (Col. 3:13; Mt. 6:14,15; Mt. 18:21-35, etc.). All of this was true. God has forgiven us of much, and we are blessed when we forgive others. Forgiveness does something for our mind, body and spirit. Learning to forgive another person, even ourselves, can be quite freeing! Yet with all this teaching on the need to forgive, I found myself struggling with the actual application.
Somewhere along the way, I had been taught that “forgiveness” and “forgetting” went hand in hand. So, as someone would offend me, I would forgive them; however, sometimes, my mind would remember the situation that occurred that brought about the need for forgiveness in the first place. “Oh no! I needed to forgive ‘some more’ because I obviously had not done it ‘right’ the first time.” This scene played out even more frequently when dealing with myself. I would make a situation right with the Lord and another person, yet once again, my memory would do what it was supposed to do and remember my offense. I thought, “I need to learn to forgive myself.”
Why can I forget where I placed my shoes three minutes ago, but I cannot forget this situation that occurred ten years ago? Why am I unable to “forgive and forget”? What is wrong with me? A few years ago the Lord brought me to a place on the road to forgiveness that changed my world!
Nine years ago this January, my husband and I encountered a fiery trial, of sorts. Close friends of ours accused us of some things that were not true. While there was indeed a problem that needed to be dealt with, the facts were not entirely truthful and additional lies were added to the mix. As I sat and listened to the list of supposed offenses, my world felt like it was crashing around me. My blood boiled; my heart raced; my thoughts were unkind. A part of me hoped I would wake up from this horrid nightmare I was having. But alas, we left that meeting with broken hearts.
To say I was angry would be an understatement. I was fuming! I wanted to crawl into my house and never crawl out. I wanted to stay out of the public eye and lick my wounds. I wanted to seethe in my bitterness! In my mind, I did not see how I could get past this. God gave me a “timeout” of sorts when He allowed me to have a violent stomach virus followed by morning sickness that kept me couch-bound for three weeks. That’s right, to add to my emotional instability, I found out I was pregnant with twins!
After a few weeks of solitude, my husband coaxed me out into the land of adulthood once again. I reluctantly got ready for church that morning and dragged myself to the car. Everything inside of my mind screamed, “Turn around! This is too hard!” With every passing minute, the tears came closer to falling down my cheeks. I am happy to report I survived the morning, came home, and napped for several hours before returning for the evening service.
For weeks, I daily prayed to God asking Him to remove my pain. Every morning, I would wake up with a deep ache in my heart. Yet, I continued to pray.
Little by little the Lord reminded me of my need to forgive and helped me to do just that. He showed me very practical ways to show love, despite how strange they may have seemed to those around me. Let’s face it: I was grasping at straws! The Lord blessed and things began to even out. I was not so broken; the tears did not flow EVERY SINGLE DAY. But I had a secret – I could not forget this. I found myself asking God to help me forgive again and again, because I “must not have truly forgiven if I cannot forget this.”
The agony of unforgetfulness haunted me.( Until the birth of my last child, I have always had an excellent memory.) I could not reconcile this need to forgive and forget when I could vividly remember so many things. I came to accept that this would be my “thorn in the flesh” and would just have to trust the Lord to help me to eventually forget this whole thing, as well as, several other difficult things in my past.
As life went on and my children grew, I realized that there were huge flaws with this whole “forgive and forget” mentality. How many of our daily experiences truly teach us something? I remember a time when I was a little girl and I stuck my finger in a live light socket. I still remember the little jolt of energy that ran through my body. Because of that experience, I have never done that again!
Our minds are truly wonderfully created! The Lord gave us the ability to reason. On any given day we learn hundreds of things, many that we will forget and some that we will remember. We use this knowledge to make future decisions. Using our knowledge of the known, we explore the unknown. In short, we learn from even our mistakes. If we forgot the “hard things,” we would no doubt, make the same mistake over and over again.
So, what of this thing called forgiveness? If I cannot forget, am I able to forgive? YES!!!
We teach our children that forgiveness is treating another person as though they had never wronged you. We teach them not to dwell on the offender but upon the lesson that the offense has to offer them.We want them to learn to lean on the Lord, especially when forgiveness seems impossible. I want them to learn from every experience. As they age, there will be many times that they will not remember the circumstances of the lesson they have learned, but they will have learned. Other times will bring experiences that will not be forgotten. Either way, it is important that they learn. Wisdom will only come by allowing the Lord to teach them through every trial that comes to pass. I want them to be wise. I want them to know that forgiveness does not always bring forgetfulness.
Back to my story above.
The Lord did indeed heal my heart. He helped me forgive those involved in the situation. He restored relationships, and He has blessed beyond measure. While I will not share the details about the entire situation, I will say that I marvel at how God used this situation to bring honor and glory Him as I yielded my heart and life to Him. After years of asking God to remove my pain to no avail, my prayer changed. I actually began asking the Lord to help me to never forget the deep pain of this situation.
Why would I pray this way? Why did I want the pain to be ever-present in my heart? What kind of insane person wants pain? I used to ask myself the same things. But you see, I have another secret, a dirty little secret: the very things I was accused of doing or being in that meeting, were the very things I found myself saying or thinking of others. I was harsh and critical. I struggled with gossip. Of course, I did not call it that; I called it sweet things like sharing prayer requests or voicing my care and concern. (There are requests to be shared and concerns to be voiced, but my attitude makes the difference on these.) It was ugly; it was gossip. I, no doubt, hurt many with my attitudes and misjudgments. Having been hit with the full force of this pain, my life was forever changed. I NEVER want to cause another person this kind of pain again. With the Lord’s help, when the temptations arise, I am reminded of that scar.
Have I forgiven? Absolutely! Have I forgotten? No.
I am thrilled to report that all relationships have been restored. Are they the same as they were before? No, but that does not mean that I have not forgiven, it just means that I learned something. I have learned that I was not a good friend to those above, that is another post in itself. I have learned to love through the pain. I have learned to trust the Lord with my heart. I have learned that He truly wants what is best for us. I have learned that if my heart is tender, He will teach me. I have learned that forgiveness is divine and forgetfulness is a bummer when you are looking for your keys – again.