Help, I’m trapped!
“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” — Hāfiz
For those of us that are believers, we are very familiar with the good news of Christ. If you are unfamiliar, this spectacular information can be summed up with the words of John 3:16 [translation taken from The First Century Aramaic Bible in Plain English], “For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his Son, The Only One, so that everyone who trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life.” We note that Jesus is the heartbeat of the story through these words. There is no engine room without him and no one responsible for pumping life-altering blood into every aspect of our humanity. The story could end there, yet more good news resides within this gospel story. One facet of the extra good news centers on forgiveness and our responsibility to extend what has been so freely given to us.
If you have a life like mine, there is no single day where forgiveness isn’t required. Think this over with me: You owe me — honor, an apology, a promotion, time with you, gratitude, ___________ (you can fill in the blank.) We curate binding lists, infinitely long at times, of grievances holding ourselves and others captive by the realness of our bitterness — leaving us ravaged by poison and trapped by the power of unforgiveness. Hebrews warns us that this type of unforgiveness should be something we keep our eyes on. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” — Hebrews 12:14–15.
The Bible illustrates that forgiveness has spiritual benefits; scientific studies have also found that forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, anxiety levels, depression, and stress.¹ Maybe this is why God emphasizes forgiveness as an intricate facet of the gospel? Even at the point of death, Jesus taught us to forgive with the words, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” In Deuteronomy, God commands that you “give up your claim to what is owed you by your brother.” Highlighting that in life and death, we are only truly free when we forgive.
What claims are you holding against others? What is snuffing out your life and laying claim in your heart? Trust me; I am holding up a mirror as I type these words in front of me. Recalling words by Chris Renzema, “in the promise of Your light, I’m found, and all the world is right.”²
Perhaps today is the day to forgive. Release yourself from the chains of torment. Release him, her, them from the narrative where you are enslaved. Release, you have been the one held prisoner. Release, and have a heart full of forgiveness, and this new light of redeeming love will light the entire sky.
I’ll take the first step; let’s do this.