Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
June 23, 2013
A beautiful gift that everybody needs
She was lonely and bitter. When I asked her why she was so bitter she said simply, “Because I hate my mother.” She went on to say, “I have not spoken to her for 27 years.”
Her anger was understandable given the cruel way her mother had wronged her. But what struck me was the terrible result of the woman’s unwillingness to forgive her mother.
She was a wretched, pitiful excuse for a human being. A prisoner of her own hatred, she was in bondage to a suffocating attitude that had robbed her of any semblance of joy. In a sense she was dead but her funeral had not yet been announced.
Months later, after much counseling and prayer, she chose to forgive her mother and their ruptured relationship was restored. The difference in the woman was startling. She was a new person, vibrantly alive, no longer trapped by her own bitterness. She had been set free from a prison of her own making. Her face was learning how to smile again.
If I have learned anything on my journey it is this: life is impossible without forgiveness. It is a beautiful gift that everyone needs. Everyone can give it. Everyone can receive it. Everyone is blessed when the gift of forgiveness is shared.
I like the way the author Frederick Buechner described the power of forgiveness. He said, “When somebody you have wronged forgives you, you are spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.”
He is right. Guilt is like an anchor, grounding us at the point of our wrongdoing. Our life, like a ship, is not free to sail onward. A guilty conscience does weaken us; the constant remembrance of what we did wrong squeezes the joy out of the daily routine.
Buechner explains well what happens when we take the initiative to forgive someone who has wronged us. He says, “When you forgive someone who has wronged you, you are spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride for both parties. Forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside your own skin and to be glad in each other’s presence.”
The “dismal corrosion of bitterness” is indeed devastating and can actually destroy the person who refuses to forgive. The freedom to “be at peace within your own skin” is what restored life to the woman who finally forgave her mother. When she gave her mother the beautiful gift of forgiveness, she broke the chains of hatred with which she had bound herself.
There are people all around us who looking for forgiveness. Some need to be forgiven and some need to forgive someone who has wronged them.
I like the story of a Spanish father and son who were estranged. The son ran away and the distraught father tried to find him. Unable to find him the father put this ad in a Madrid newspaper: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.”
That Saturday at noon, so the story goes, 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. The story is no doubt apocryphal but it does remind us of our common need for forgiveness.
Henry Ford was a brilliant inventor. Despite his brilliance he forgot to put a reverse gear in the first car he invented. What is even worse he did not build a door wide enough to get the car out of the building in which he built it. He had to cut a hole in the wall to get the car out.
If we refuse to give the beautiful gift of forgiveness to someone who has wronged us, we imprison ourselves. Then only a forgiving spirit can cut a hole in that prison and allow us to get out.
Forgiveness is really what the Christian faith is all about. Everybody has sinned. Sin enslaves us. God loves us anyway. He sent his son to tell us we are forgiven. His gift of forgiveness is offered us in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. Only from those hands may we receive it.
Receiving that gift we are set free from our sins. In that freedom we have peace with God – and that peace moves us to forgive those who have wronged us.
Forgiveness is a beautiful gift but it must be shared if we are to experience its transforming power. Receive it and share it because life is impossible without it. + + +