When You Need To Let Go Of The Past
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lot
So, you think you have problems, do you? Consider the plight of a woman who held a rummage sale to get rid of her junk and put some money in her purse at the same time.
Elmira collects turtles—big ones, small ones, green ones, brown ones. All kinds of them. So, she decided to sell some of them on the junk table. “We have lots of turtles,” she explained, and the turtles sold; but a rather small turtle turned into a big problem.
Elmira was her husband’s second wife, and wife number one had also collected turtles. If fact, she asked that one of them serve as the final resting place of her ashes upon her death.
Later when Elmira began searching for the turtle which was the urn containing the ashes of her husband’s late wife, she remembered. A woman had bought the turtle explaining that she wanted to turn it into a cookie jar.
Yes, she hopes to locate the buyer who hopefully hasn’t yet had time to convert the turtle-urn into a cookie jar. It’s unclear how her husband responded to the sale of his late wife’s turtle, but I can tell you for sure that the experience proved to be a test of the strength of their relationship.
Of course, we have to let go of the past, but letting go that way can be rather painful as well. Coping with the unexpected is always a challenge to your relationship—whether it is an accident that your wife has, or your husband gambles behind your back, or you learn that your husband, who was supposed to go fishing, actually went to Hong Kong or Las Vegas with his secretary.
“I can forgive but I will never forget,” a woman sat in my office and told me. Honestly, that’s like burying the hatchet with the handle sticking up out of the ground for ready reference should there ever be a failure in the future.
Of course, the memory of a person’s failure—whether it is selling the turtle that contained the ashes of your late wife or the failure of your husband to honor his wedding vows—is something that you will bear to your dying day. But whether or not you release the wrong is entirely another matter.
To forgive someone is not to say that what the person did is OK; it isn’t. But it does say, “OK, I put this matter in God’s hands and let Him deal with it.” Most of the time it means we put something aside. We let it go. Actually, the word used in the New Testament when the writers of Scripture talked about forgiveness means “to give up” or “to take away.” I think of it like this. “When I forgive you, I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me.”
Vast numbers of people live with brokenness from the past. The anger and bitterness never goes away but becomes the poison in your system that you would like to project to your enemy. It doesn’t work that way.
God’s grace and help always bring healing to the person who has forgiven, allowing gradual healing to take place. No, it doesn’t always happen at once. At times it is a slow process as you forgive, forgive, and forgive again. But it will happen.
I have no way of knowing if the woman who bought the turtle at a rummage sale realized it was not a proper container for chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, and returned the purchase; but I do know that no matter how careful we are, and how much we love the other person, we eventually “sell the turtle,” drop and damage it, or simply misplace it and have to say, “I’m sorry; forgive me.” That’s what it takes to find healing.