"To forgive is to set a prisoner free only to discover that the prisoner was you." Corrie Ten Boom
I'll never forget sitting in the Denver Coliseum as a fifteen year old in high school clinching my jaw and my fists. I didn't want to let go of my anger toward my biological father. The preacher seemed like he was talking directly to me and I was resisting his point with all of my might.
Although I had never met my father I knew that he had abandoned my mom as soon as he discovered she was pregnant. They had a short term relationship and I was the result.
I hated the thought of my mom being left high and dry with an unwanted pregnancy. I hated the thought that I was the unwanted pregnancy. I hated the sadness and guilt I saw in my mom's eyes when she looked at me.
You see, she had driven from Denver to Boston to have an illegal abortion when she realized there was no chance of legitimizing her not-yet-showing pregnancy. I thank God that my grandparents found out what was going on, got ahold of her in Boston and talked her into coming back to Denver to give birth to me.
It was this backdrop that fueled the fires to my hatred. But now, fifteen years later, this preacher was tampering with my bitterness. And then he went and did it. He quoted Psalm 68:5 which says of God, "He is a father to the fatherless."
In that moment I realized that I had a heavenly Father who was all I needed to take care of me. Because He (my Heavenly Father) loved me unconditionally I could forgive him (my biological father) unconditionally.
With my face streaming with tears I forced the words out of my mouth in the form of a whisper, although they felt like a shout in my soul, "Father, I forgive you." In that singular, life-altering, bitterness-eschewing moment, a rush of relief came flooding into my soul. My jaw and my fists unclinched and I wept tears of joy.
Yes, I had to forgive him in my soul a thousand more times over the next few years. Every time I felt the bile of bitterness rise in my throat when I thought of my earthly father I forgave him again. There was no way I was going to be imprisoned again by hate.
So, who do you need to forgive? Forgive them now. Remember the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
We forgive others because we have been forgiven by God through Christ. Because he has forgiven us we can forgive anyone for anything they have done to us.
And let's remember to spread this message of forgiveness through Christ to as many as we can so that they, too, can be set free the prison of sin and bitterness.
Forgive them now!