The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine. She and I have another good friend we have both known since the first grade. She said that the two of them had gotten into a verbal argument and said unkind things to one another. This friend had just finished reading my novel, Faith – Seventy Times Seven, and, the same as I did when writing it, struggled with forgiving and was still having angry thoughts that filled her mind over their abusive conversation with one another.
My mom and her sister had done the same thing and did not speak to one another for over ten years. It was only as my mom laid on her bed in the hospital dying from cancer did my aunt walk in one day. I watched the two of them cry. No words were said. Neither of them over all this time found the way to forgive and forget and it was one of the most saddest things I had ever seen. After almost five minutes, they both, almost simultaneously said, “I’m sorry.” My mom passed away three days later.
As I had done numerous times during the writing of this novel, I pondered over forgiveness and forgetting as my grandmother, the Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds struggled with an abusive alcoholic husband for twenty years. My thoughts turned to the many scriptures in the Bible that I had read over and over during my research for the true story of the first ordained woman minister in Louisiana. Surely, I asked myself, if we have trouble forgetting, what about God who never forgets anything? In Hebrews 10:17, God says, “Their sins and their lawless acts I will remember no more.” Let me emphasize that in God’s own words he says, “I will remember no more.” In God’s forgiveness, he chooses not to remember our sins.
This good friend of mine blames our other friend for being abusive and ugly in her verbal abuse. She went on to tell me that after several months she found the way to forgive him, but during sleepless nights, she would wake up, off and on, thinking about the argument they had and get angry all over again. The thoughts of the incident simply did not go away. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months…she could not forget.
I mentioned to her during my writing of FAITH, that I remembered talking to a Baptist minister during one Thanksgiving dinner a year or so ago. He painted an interesting picture in words. “Have you ever seen a movie and it is a thick foggy day off the coast and the captain of a vessel reaches up and pulls the rope for a loud fog horn. Even after pulling the rope the horn continues to sound loudly, over and over as it echos through the stillness of the fog.” The seasoned minister of many years stops eating for a moment, leans over in my direction, and says, “What happens Sean if the captain does not pull on that rope again?” I knew he was asking the question, but hesitated in responding knowing he was about to give me the answer. “The sound of the fog horn will soon fade away! Forgiveness is like that. If we struggle with that which has hurt us for a long time, we should not be caught off guard if these angry thoughts keep coming our way. They are simply the echos of the fog horn on a still morning getting weaker and weaker until they are no more.
I let my friend know what I had learned. I explained to her that it is not surprising if after forgiveness that the memories keep coming back. If you refuse to dwell on them, they will slowly just go away. Why…because when you forgive someone, you are letting go of the rope, much like the captain of the vessel letting go of the rope and the strength of those thoughts of anger that bother you become weaker and weaker until they are no longer there.
Stay tuned…in my next post I will continue with my discussion of my two friends and their anger towards one another. Does forgiveness mean my friend has to let our mutual friend walk all over her?