Forgive and Forget. That’s what we’ve all be told since we were two-years old, right? Yet, I don’t know if any of us really are able to truly forget. I’m currently reading a book called, “Every Thought Captive” by Jerusha Clark. It’s about the lies we tell ourselves (or that Satan tries to get us to believe) that keep us from knowing real truth, and specifically, The Truth, Jesus Christ. (Side note: it’s an awesome book that I highly recommend! It’s written for women but has lots of good thoughts for men as well.)
Anyway, today as I was reading in a chapter about genuine forgiveness, the author introduced the concept of “Redemptive Remembering.” The phrase caught my attention and I was excited that she went on to talk about it more.
Through forgiveness, we stay truthful about what happened to us, but we choose to remember with grace. This is redemptive remembering. Remembering redemptively is not part of our human nature but is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. God is in the business of redemption. … Through His grace our emotions, our memory, and our thoughts are transformed. The wounds of our past become the beauty of our future. (pg. 97)
I thought this was a beautiful way to think about the concept of forgiveness. It often seems that we don’t want to forgive someone because we think that lets them off the hook or makes it look like what they did didn’t hurt us at all. We think that we are better off just choosing not to forgive them. In reality though, choosing to not forgive them means that they still have control of our emotions and thoughts… that person ends up with control of us. However, when we choose to forgive, “we participate in a divine miracle.” (pg. 96).
Even if we muster up enough of God’s grace and strength to actually forgive the person, the memory often remains. We maybe able to forgive, but the forgetting part is still really hard. As Clark states,
Remembering an offense is easy. You hear a certain song or run into someone at the movies, and the memories of hurtful words or actions fly – unbidden- into your mind. … Forgiveness does not wipe clean the slate of your mind and heart. Instead, it offers you the chance to remember redemptively. (pg. 97)
Take Joseph, from the Bible for example. Yea, the one whose brothers wanted to kill him because they were jealous that their dad favored him. They didn’t kill him but sold him into slavery instead where he was framed and ended up in jail. Long story short, he eventually became very powerful in Pharoah’s kingdom, second only to Pharoah himself. Later on in the story, the brothers come asking for food because of the famine, not realizing that their brother is the one in charge of the food distribution.
Joseph could have chosen to act in bitterness and unforgiveness toward his brothers. Instead, he chose redemptive remembering. He didn’t ignore what they had done, but instead, chose to see it through the eyes of grace as he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).
I’m not exactly sure what this looks like in our everyday lives, but I pray that the next time my heart wants to choose bitterness and unforgiveness, I would remember that true freedom is found in forgiveness. I pray that instead of striving unceasingly to “forgive and forget”, that I would ask God to help me forgive and then remember redemptively … seeing those that hurt me through eyes of His grace!
Please show us what true forgiveness looks like so that we can offer it to those around us. When someone does hurt us, help us to remember redemptively just as you remember us through eyes of grace despite how often we hurt you. Thank you for your forgiveness!
In Jesus’ Name,