I don’t know why God hits me with the things God hits me with. And I wonder how often God sends a message my way and I totally miss it. Well, not this morning! I heard a quote this morning as I was driving to worship that hit me where it hurts and I have been in a tailspin ever since. Here it is … get ready … I hope it will impact you as it did me: “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” This quote comes from Paul Boese who was a Dutch botanist, more known for his quotes than his research.
It has become apparent to me that lately I am carrying a lot of emotional baggage in two current situations of my life. This morning upon hearing this quote, I had to stop and wonder: have these simple words provoked the wake-up call I needed to forgive the persons in these two situations who have wronged me? And further, what is my part in wronging them by not forgiving them and being able to move on with an “enlarged” future?
One of the situations is a family matter and I can clearly see how offering that forgiveness would enlarge not only my future, but also other family members’ futures. And, I want to and will do that. It scares me and honestly the reason I haven’t offered forgiveness prior to now is because I am afraid this family member won’t ask me for forgiveness for their actions but will instead continue to point out what I am doing wrong. But I have realized that I can’t dwell on that. This person loves me as much as she can, just not the way I need; I can’t change that and must learn to accept that fact. It will take some time for things to get back to normal, but I am unpacking that emotional suitcase!
But in the second relationship, I remain bitter in spite of the words of Paul Boese. Clearly this is the reason for my afore mentioned tailspin. And, it is a little different from the first situation because I have forgiven my transgressor in this case. However, I have no inclination or longing whatsoever to have an active relationship with that person so how do we have an “enlarged future?” BOOM … God wrestled me to the floor again! Maybe the “enlarged future” is not mine or about continuing a relationship with the person but that “enlarged future” belongs to my ex-transgressor because of my forgiveness? Maybe the enlarged future is mine because I have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and move on in a positive way. As much as I cared for this friend, my heart has become hardened (like Pharoah’s in the Old Testament) against this person. I know that if I do not separate myself from this person, this person will never change or be able to focus on their issues. As heavy as this emotional suitcase has become and as attached to it as I am, I just have to put it down and walk away. A metaphorical way to think of it is like this: perhaps the “airline” (i.e. God) just lost the “suitcase” (i.e. emotional baggage) and I am now headed home from the “airport” (i.e. our relationship) without the bag. I’ll still hang on to the “clothes” (i.e. our times together / memories / lessons learned) I wore that were in the bag, but I can’t carry it anymore.
You can probably tell, I have been thinking so much lately about forgiveness and the bitterness a lack of forgiveness can cause. And, for sure, God knew I needed to hear Paul Boese’s words this morning. Forgiveness is an emotion and emotions are what drive us (and our behavior). And I would argue that most of us know from personal experience...forgiveness works. When we are wrong, our first reaction tends to be anger and resentment. But not Jesus! Jesus, even knowing that his “friends” and “family” will soon desert him, He breaks bread and celebrates with these same people. I am so thankful for the example Jesus has set forth and for the words of his servant Paul Boese. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.