Summer is a time of family get-togethers, class reunions and other moments when we reconnect and reacquaint. At those times, it’s likely that we will meet up with someone whom we resent, someone who brings back bad memories.
When we say The Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us, and we promise to forgive those who have hurt us (Luke 11:4). Regardless of whether we say “trespasses,” “sins” or “debts,” the most important word here is “forgive.”
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of books have been written about forgiveness. Google the word and you’ll find a virtually endless supply of information. With all of this advice, and considering that forgiveness is a pillar of the Christian faith, one would think forgiveness easy. Yet it is one of the hardest things to do.
I, for one, have an entire library of hurts that I have tended over the years. This library has whole sections such as “unresolved anger,” “embarrassing moments,” “shameful things I have done,” “people who have hurt my feelings,” “people who have hurt me physically” and “ways I have failed myself,” among many others. My library is vast. Some of the volumes are huge and heavy; others are merely the size of a small pamphlet. And yet I keep them all there together, and I carry that library on my back every day. How on earth could I ever hope to unload something that big?
But Matthew tells us that nothing is impossible with God’s help (Matthew 9:26). This summer I have been practicing a spiritual exercise that is helping me shrink the size of my library. Every day I set aside at least five minutes, often more, when I can sit somewhere comfortable and quiet. I relax and remind myself that God is holding me and that God loves me no matter what.
I pluck one of those books off a shelf in my library, and I replay the memory in my mind. I allow myself to feel the emotions this memory evokes. Then I stop the scene that is running in my head — making a “freeze frame” out of it. I imagine folding that “freeze frame” in half, then in quarters, and so on until it is as small as I can make it. I hold that folded up piece of paper in my mind, and say to God, “I can’t handle this thing by myself. It has haunted me for years (or months, or days). Please, God, take this burden from me.” Then I imagine putting that bad memory into a giant hand — God’s hand. And God takes it away from me.
Now, that doesn’t mean the memory is gone. It remains in my brain, of course. And there are many times when the memory tries to play out in my mind again. At those times I have to tell myself, “You gave that up to God, remember?”
Some books in my library are too big — some hurts too massive — for this simple exercise to handle. But it works for many of them. I pray it may work in your library, too.
With love, Pastor Gage