Thursday, May 5, 2011

Forgiveness...Come and Eat!

My grandmother passed away on Friday. Death is not the tragedy for her. The tragedy is the anger and hurt she held on to for decades against loved ones who had wronged her throughout her life. She would not budge in her "rightness", and would not see the beam in her own eyes.  I mourn for her spirit, knowing that even now as she has been freed from her dilapidated physical body, her spirit must still be hurting from the heavy load she carried with her throughout her life.  I love my grandmother. She was a great lady and always kind and loving to me.  But she suffered...spiritually. Why? Because she could not forgive.
Forgiveness is a miraculous gift. It is a gift freely given to every human being who walks the earth. Yet, it is the gift probably the least utilized, even by people who know Jesus Christ and profess to believe in Him.  

Several years ago, I had the privilege to read a life-changing book at my Sunset Book Club.  Ironically, I really didn't want to read it as I thought it would be cheesy.  Even after I read it, I thought it was cheesy. But thanks to the discussion I had at book club about this book, it changed my life forever.  
Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of every person who has or will walk this earth. I don't understand the hows of it all, but I do know that He did it.  Because of Him, He paid every last ounce of sin and suffering on this earth. I know this is true.  

I am a sinner. I have hurt others throughout my life by my poor choices, and I most assuredly will in the future. I stand condemned before the Lord.  It is only through the merits and grace of Jesus Christ that I am clean, because of the faith I have in Him. 
He forgives me so freely when I repent of my sins.
But doesn't this go both ways?  
When I offend others, when I hurt others, I can repent, knowing that because of the atonement, my sins have been paid for already. Yet, people will offend me. People will hurt me.  Guess what? Their sins have been paid for as well.  When I choose not to forgive, even when they have not asked me for forgiveness, I am denying Jesus Christ. I am calling Him a liar.  I am carrying an unnecessary burden of hurt and pain, a burden that should not be mine.
I love this little story by Boyd K. Packer...
So many are like the immigrant woman who skimped and saved and deprived herself until, by selling all of her possessions, she bought a steerage-class ticket to America.
She rationed out the meager provisions she was able to bring with her. Even so, they were gone early in the voyage. When others went for their meals, she stayed below deck—determined to suffer through it. Finally, on the last day, she must, she thought, afford one meal to give her strength for the journey yet ahead. When she asked what the meal would cost, she was told that all of the meals had been included in the price of her ticket.
Isn't that great?  Here is a woman who tried to do it on her own and suffered terribly.  The food was already paid for with her ticket.  But she was so stubborn, she refused to ask for help.
As we go through life and hold on to hurt and grievances that others have inflicted upon us, we are like this lady.  We starve ourselves of God's love and our hearts wax cold. It is a disease that will destroy us.  We deny Christ and His perfect and free gift, just like the food on the voyage.
When we deny forgiveness in our hearts, even when the person has not asked for our forgiveness, we carry that load of sin upon our own shoulders. 
And guess what? Over the years, the load gets very heavy.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is aeasy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30)
Were you hurt? YES! Did the offender sin against you? YES!  But hasn't that sin already been paid for?  YES!!  By golly, yes.  It has been bought and paid for by the drops of blood spilled by the Master.  His yoke is the atonement. He did it all, bore it all, suffered it all. It has already been done.
Give it all to Him: every hurt, betrayal, wrong doing, unkind word, violation. Give it all to Him, and you will find rest unto your soul.  Let it go, completely, utterly. Surrender your pride, your self-justification, your martyr mentality. Give it to Him and have complete faith and trust in what He has already done for you, but not just for you, but for all of those who have or will sin against you.
You shall find rest unto your soul and peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27) Forgiveness is the key to peace. Christ has forgiven me...and everyone else.  Forgiveness brings peace.
I have had people who have hurt me. But when I made a conscious decision to forgive them, the forgetting soon follows.  It really does.  Just like being pregnant with twins, twice.  It is a vague memory. I remember that it was tough, but the particulars are dulled from my senses. However, the fruits of pregnancy have been wonderful.  I remember the good things and I enjoy the good things everyday now that I am a mother. This has been true with my childhood as well. I remember the good things and I revel in that. Everything else is not my problem. It is not a debt I have to carry or pay for, because it has already been paid.
So, I mourn for my grandmother only in the fact that she was carrying an awfully heavy load. It must have been very hard for her. She had many siblings who have done the same thing and now none of them talk to each other. They all are going to die alone and angry, if it hasn't already happened.  Grandma is like that poor immigrant lady. She kept herself stubbornly in the bottom of the boat, desperately trying to make it to the end of the journey while she was starving to death, starving herself from the love of God, when it was free for her. All she had to do was go up there and eat.  
How grateful I am to have a testimony of the power of forgiveness.  My heart feels free, my burdens are easy to bare, and I have an outpouring of love all around me. I can feel it. It courses through my veins. The atonement is real. It will work in our lives to a power that will be beyond all comprehension.  And oh how sweet is the joy when we let it. 
Forgive and be free.


Hoku said...

Very eloquently and honestly put. And I haven't read that book in a while but you made me want to go dust it off from my shelves and give it another whirl.

likeschocolate said...

Amazing that I clicked on your blog this evening because I am struggling with this very issue. My problem is not so much forgiving the person for what they have done to me and our family, but that it is a repeated situation. How do I forgive this person, but at the same time not allow them to continue to take advantage of my family. I think I am going to have to spend some time on my knees with this one to find an answer.

NormaKimokeo said...

I was very moved by this blog -- so true, and so sad that so many people cling to their grudges... Thank you for sharing a powerful testimony on the necessity, and the blessing, and the beauty of forgiveness. I believe every word.

Love your blog. Love your little family. And sure love YOU! You are a super lady, super mom, etc. etc... Hugs across the miles. XOXO

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