It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves from the pain and injustice in our past. But forgiveness does not happen quickly. It cannot happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, and the injustice. When forgiveness has finished its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and set free from the pain of the past.
Lewis Smedes was an ethicist who wrote about the miracle of forgiveness. “When you forgive the person who hurt you deeply and unfairly, you perform a miracle that has no equal.” He goes on the say that forgiveness is not for the weak. It isn’t for the trivial offenses. It is reserved for the deep wrongs that cannot be forgotten, ignored, or tolerated.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We often carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and the forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group called Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with the theme of forgiveness and healing, which are often followed by scars that remain for a lifetime.
Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar
One middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. In addition, they felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor and met with him, asking for his guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. He also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness.
They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They asked each other for forgiveness, too. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.
I am not saying this is the right thing to do. I do not endorse littering or polluting the environment, but am merely reporting what this particular couple did. You might need to be creative and come up with an action plan that’ll work for you.
To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.