This metaphor spoke powerful words to my soul at the time, for I had come to a place where I was ready (and able) to deal with several painful memories (25 year old ones!!) that when remembered brought back the same emotional reaction and sorrow as when the memory was first made.
As I reflect back on those memories, today their sting is all but gone. I can remember without the painful emotions and it feels good. Some of these memories were about misunderstood grief. Some were about great loss, disappointment, and failure.
I've come to realize that forgiveness is such a big part of dealing with painful memories and beginning to "have life more abundantly" and "to have it to the full" (John 10:10b). I struggled with the concept of forgiveness for many years (and still do at times) because it never made sense to me. If I forgave the person, then somehow it felt like I was saying everything was "okay" and that the offense was no longer wrong.
Some years back I heard a teaching that began my trek toward genuine forgiveness. The gentleman spoke on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. This was a revolutionary concept for me. For in my mind they were one and the same thing ~ intermingled and intertwined. The cloudy murky concept slowing (!!) began to change.
Forgiveness is a singular activity. It is something I do within me, and I don't need the other person to participate in the process for me to forgive. Reconciliation is a bilateral process, requiring the participation of both parties. For there to be genuine reconciliation, I need to forgive and the other person needs to show godly sorrow over what he or she has done...reconciliation is optional and depends on the attitude of the offender. (p. 46 - Real Solutions for Forgiving the Unforgivable - David Stoop)
I began to grasp the idea that releasing others from their debt (forgiving their debt) actually released me from my own death grip (which incidentally I didn't realize I was bound until I was free). I was able to genuinely say, "God I forgive xx for the debt they owe me. They no longer owe me anything. I release them from whatever debt I hoped they would pay."
"To 'for-give' is, in the English language, an extended, expanded, strengthened form of the verb to give. By intensifying the verb we speak of giving at its deepest level, of self-giving, of giving forth and giving up deeply held parts of the self." We give up the right to revenge, to perfection, to justice, and instead we give forth to ourselves - or to the other person - freedom from the past and an openness toward the future. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves and others. (p. 19 - David Stoop)Yes, it was a gift I gave myself. In letting go and "cutting out the diseased trees" this area is now open and free. I'm now ready to receive the planting of something new and something healthy.
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By the way, this spring my husband and I planted an Oklahoma redbud in place of one of our pine trees. Our new redbud looks healthy and strong and even survived those fierce winds we had several week ago. The tree bent over almost to a 90 degree angle, but it straightened right up when the winds subsided. It was a beautiful thing to see.