Two friends were walking through a desert. At one point, they had an argument. One friend slapped the other in the face. The one who was hurt said nothing. Instead, he wrote in the sand, “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.” Nothing else was said about the fight.
As they continued their journey, they came to an oasis, with waterfalls and vegetation. They especially enjoyed the water. But suddenly, the one who had been slapped got stuck in the mud and started to drown. His friend jumped into the water and saved him. The friend who was saved from drowning chiseled onto a stone, “Today my best friend saved my life.”
The “moral of the story” is: When someone hurts you, write it in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. When someone does something good for you, engrave it in stone where it will remain for all time.
Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s very hard. Sometimes it seems impossible. Forgiveness isn’t like some giant eraser that removes bad events and hurts from memory. Hurts and disappointments remain with us.
You’ve heard the suggestion to “forgive and forget.” But I don’t think we’re wired to do that. In fact, there’s good evidence in the Bible that forgetting isn’t always advised. For example, we’re told of intense family hurt in the Old Testament story of Joseph. He’s sold into slavery by jealous brothers, basically left for “dead.” By the end of the story, the family is reconciled and brought back together. Joseph tells his brothers that what they did was evil, but God turned it into good. This doesn’t justify or whitewash the hurt. It names it while recognizing the redeeming power of God. The family, and thus the chosen people of God, would live on.
The story of the cross of Jesus Christ is quite the same. He was crucified by evil actions. God turned this death into forgiveness, life, resurrection, life eternal!
We do ourselves no spiritual favors when our thoughts are focused (even obsessed) with the hurts others have done to us. When we remember only the hurts, we fail to embrace a life of redemption and new life.
We often give voice to the hurts. It’s the way we’re wired. But we also need to give voice to the power of forgiveness, reconciliation, new life. We need to be open to letting the winds of forgiveness flow over our hurts. Be careful not to write your hurts in stone.
God never tires of forgiving us. God never tires of turning what is bad in our lives into good. God never tires of giving us grace, healing, and new life. That Good News, my friends, had been written eternally in stone.