We can be tortured for months, years, decades by searing
memories of past abuses, injuries, and injustices. Oh, to find the
freedom and lightness of forgiveness. But how do we command
the hurricane of our emotions to be still? How do we forgive?
When tormenting memories surface, our cortisol, adrenaline, blood pressure,
and heart rate rise. We first need to calm this neurochemical and
physiological storm. It’s good to literally go on a walk with Jesus, honestly
naming our emotions: outrage, shock, rage, hurt pride, hurt feelings, grief,
incredulity, and the longing for justice. For feelings buried alive never die!
Then, in a process called “the healing of memories,” mentally
visualise the painful scene, seeing Christ himself there, his eyes
brimming with compassion. Ask Christ to heal the sting, to
draw the poison from these memories of experiences that have
injured your mind, spirit, character, and assessment of yourself.
We are caterpillars in a ring of fire, as Martin Luther wrote–
unable to rescue ourselves. We need help from above.
Accept what happened. What happened, happened. Then, as the Apostle
Paul advises, give thanks in everything, though not for everything.
Give thanks because God can bring good out of the swindle and the
injustice. Ask him to creatively bring magic and beauty from the ashes.
If, like the persistent widow Jesus used as an example,
you want to pray for justice–that the swindler and the abusers’
characters are revealed, so many are protected, then do so–
but that’s a double-edged prayer. First, purify your own life.
And now, just forgive. Perhaps say aloud, I forgive you for …
You are setting a captive free. Yourself. Come alive. Be free.
And when memories of deep injuries arise, say: “No. No. Not
going there.” Stop repeating the devastating story to yourself or
anyone else. Don’t waste your time and emotional energy, nor let
yourself be overwhelmed by anger at someone else’s evil actions. Don’t
let the past poison today. Refuse to allow reinjury. Deliberately think
instead of things noble, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
So keep trying, in obedience, to forgive, to let go of your anger
until you suddenly realise that you have forgiven, and can remember
past events without agitation. Hold our hand, Jesus. Amen.