I heard a story one time about a woman who had suffered years of physical abuse from her husband. After ten years, she finally managed to break away from the hold he had on her, and even though she had re-married and moved on with her life, those feelings of hate and resentment were never far away. It was like a boulder tied to her waist; she was never free.
One day, an idea came to her. She went to the store and bought ten helium balloons and a black marker. Then she drove out to an open field.
Taking the balloons, she wrote a number from one to ten on each one. She got out of the car with the balloons and for a long time she sat on the ground, thinking of the years of abuse she had suffered at the hands of a man she once loved.
But today was the day for forgiving. As she released the balloons—one for each year of marriage—she visualized all of the hurt, the pain, the hatred that she had carried around for years floating away from her and out of sight.
She says it was only then that she forgave her ex-husband, and, strangely, only then did she feel truly freed from her past. The weight she had carried so long was gone.
Carrying past hurts and personal mistakes around is a self-defeating activity. It's like trying to walk with a ball and chain on your ankle. It keeps you from moving forward, and is constantly rekindling unpleasant feelings. Every time you would get on with your life, the ball and chain yanks you back, reminding you that you aren't free to move forward. Your spirit is still bound to the past. It’s a trick of the enemy.
It is only when we truly forgive others, and ourselves (which is just as important), that we will be free to move forward.
No doubt, we've all been hurt by someone—by actions, by words, by lies—and surely we've all been guilty of hurting others, as well. Neither is a great feeling. They both can keep us from God. Whether it’s holding onto bitterness and anger from being hurt, or feeling the weight of guilt and self-hatred for having hurt others, such things are debilitating and can consume our thoughts. I’ve been in both places. It can be a long journey to freedom, either way.
A religious teacher once had this to say about the past: "Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?"
I’m guilty of falling short on every level—as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, as a sister, as a daughter, as a neighbor, as a church member. You name it. I’m not a great example of anything, except a flawed human being in need of God’s mercy. But I can’t allow my frailties to be my excuses, nor to hold me back from becoming a better person.
We can, and should, apologize to those we've wounded, and do our best to make things right. Whether they forgive us or not is up to them, but we must forgive ourselves and believe that God has forgiven us. It isn't healthy to wallow in yesterday's mistakes. Neither should we replay the harsh words and hurts that others have brought to us, over and over in our minds.
Today is a new day, and it’s God’s will that we come boldly to the throne of grace, that we let go of the mistakes and pain of our past, and walk humbly into the future. What did the Apostle Paul say? "Putting the past behind me … I press forward." It's the will of God. It's the best we can do.
Until next time, dear friends, I'm embracing the sunrise. Won't you join me?
Joining my friends at "Spiritual Sundays" today,
where it's all about inspiration and encouragement.