It was dark in my bedroom when I sat upright in bed. I glanced briefly at the clock – it was too early. I was tired. There was only one reason I was awake . . . I slipped quietly to the living room and gingerly picked up my worn workbook from my Freedom in Christ class. I fetched a blank sheet of white copy paper and an ink pen. Turning in my workbook, I read over the directions of the exercise I needed to complete although I already knew what it said.
The assignment: to write out the name(s) of people I needed to forgive and then write out all my emotions towards them. I had two wonderufl women in my small group holding me accountable to do this assignment which I had put off for nearly two weeks. It’s not that I didn’t want to forgive, but when something that needs forgiveness is so big, so far-reaching into my heart and life, so consuming – I find myself asking, who can forgive like this but God? It’s baffling. So I pushed back completing this assignment not because I hesitated to forgive, but for fear that this was just another silly exercise that won’t bring about real healing.
Hand shaking I began to scrawl the words out onto that paper. It was ugly, brutal, just raw emotion spilled out in black ink all over the white. I said things that I never allowed myself to. I gave the “good girl” another shove aside and wrote furiously. The anger poured from my pen. The hurt leaked out all over. I stopped for a moment, my breath ragged, my face wet with tears and took a moment to look up and say aloud, “I don’t want to do this!”
I put down my pen and stared at the piece of paper now covered end to end and front to back with woundedness and rage . . . a broken heart’s cries encompassed on a simple sheet of paper. One two-inch space remained at the bottom on which I wrote “I forgive you.”
I walked to the kitchen an found an old metal mixing bowl and a book of matches. This was the final portion of the assignment, to destroy it completely. To let it go. I struck the match and held it to the edge of the paper and let out a shuddered sigh as I watched it burn, blue, yellow and red. The shattered life consumed by fire. The anger eaten away by flame until all that was left was ash. Gray ash. Hatred dead, forgiveness remains. And JOY.
I took that bowl full of ashes outside in the dark and lifted it to the wind, watched the cool morning breeze take it away, and I thanked God for that silly exercise, for fire and ashes, for forgiveness. For my life and how He makes all things new. For fresh starts and abounding love.
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”