Madison and I only caught the end of the movie Wild, we watched maybe the last hour. We watched as the character hiked along the Northwest coast. She opened up a little about her life as she traveled; yet we saw her anguish over her wounded heart. When the movie ended, Madison shrugged said, “Well, I guess you had to see the beginning to get it."
The statement struck me, and my mind began to mull over his statement. As I thought about my life, the character’s life, and lives of most people, I realized you don't need to see the first part to understand that everyone goes on a journey in their lives.
I turned to Madison and replied, "Do we really need to know the past to know someone is on a journey or working to change their lives? It's obvious that she was on a pilgrimage to resolve some issues, to repent, and turn her life around. Does the details of someone's past really take away the knowledge that they are trying to become better?”
It made me think of my book. I went on looking out the window into the night, as I spoke. "I know it's human to want to know the details, the juicy pieces that tore a life apart, the sins that nearly crush, or completely crush a person. It's partly to compare our lives to another, to see if our sin was as bad or not. Or we want to feel like we are not alone, that our worthlessness is the same as another. We want to see if looking at another person’s horrible life can redeem us and compare ourselves to them. We question ourselves with things like: 'am I redeemable, is there hope, can I truly change?' But it shouldn't be that way. Scripture says there is nothing new under the sun. Therefore, every sin that could have ever been done has been. So your sin, his or her sin, and my sin is nothing new."
We shouldn’t, and scripture tells us not to, compare ourselves. Hurt is hurt. Only humans put a degree of hurt on things. The same can be said of sin. There is no degree of sin that is worse than another. However, if the details of my sin, my hurt, my journey helps someone to see that their sins are less than mine and therefore they personally are redeemable, or if someone feel that have walked in my shoes, and the details help find their path to repentance, redemption, forgiveness, and hope... then I will gladly share my past. But know you're worth redemption regardless! Regardless how awful, horrible, or despicable you may feel. I'm proof of that. My family is proof. My friends are proof. All those who follow Christ to the best of their ability are proof.
Everyone is worthy of redemption.
Many of us desire to forgive, but simply don't know how. So let's start with the truth. There is no one special, magical, proven, definitive technique to forgive. No tried and true steps to follow. This is because EVERY person is different and EVERY situation is unique. Sure, there are similarities across many of these situations; however, EVERYONE has different families, past experience, and futures.
So, the only tried and true first step of forgiveness is to TRY. Take small steps - or big steps -towards healing yourself, talking with others, the possibility of forgiving offender... but most importantly, take steps towards God. Even steps backward can be blessings. They give time to regroup, redirect, reevaluate, refocus, reinforcements, and renew one's strength. As a friend once shared with me, to give up means to accept failure. To surrender, means to accept compassion, grace, and mercy. Surrender it all to Him.
Yet we must remember: forgiveness doesn't mean the hurt is gone. It doesn't instantaneously heal all the pain, but it does provide a starting point: a place to begin to heal, a place to let God in to restore your heart and your mind. It's a starting point to allow the logic and truth compassion and grace of Jesus to be poured over us & heal our wounds. For some people, the healing will be near miraculous. For others, it can be slow healing from the inside out. Without that first step, there is no healing; there is no balm to soothe your soul. With the first step, the first point of forgiveness, we are following Jesus’ command to forgive others, as He has forgiven us. Forgiving requires taking yourself out of the equation.
Forgiveness is a process, but here are a few of those first steps we can all take.
Look for the reason why someone hurt you.
Understand most, if not all, of their hurt has nothing to do with you.
Extend compassion to the offender, because we all hurt others sometimes.
Set boundaries to avoid future hurt or abuse.
Release the person - don't strive for punishment or retribution.
Extend grace and compassion.
Learn. Grow. Heal.
Have you ever wondered who you are?
Maybe you've found yourself asking things like, "Where did I come from? Why do I look like this? Am I doomed with this DNA I have been given? Can I overcome those innate traits?"
Aesthetically, as a child I always wondered who I was. I have very curly, dark brown hair, olive skin, brown eyes, and full features. This was a striking contrast to my fair skinned, hazed eyes, svelte figured, German heritage mother.
I was asked by others if I was half black, or rudely asked, “What are you?” School kids taunted me, pulled my curls, and called me awful names. In a predominately white, suburban community, I stuck out.
My mother’s family loved me and shared our German heritage. The strong, stout, and determined heritage of hardworking men and women that brought my great-grandfather and his family out of Eastern Europe to Canada in the early 1930s and then to America in the late 1940s.
My mother explained that my curls came from my father’s side and her side, and that my olive skin was because my father’s family was Spanish. I was Spanish. I didn’t feel Spanish. That part of my heritage was missing, and for years, I felt something was missing in me.
By my thirties, my biological father was in my life and I tried to gleam some of his heritage. I was also interested in my medical history, my DNA that determines if diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or mental illness was part of my future. I knew I was dyslexic and that this learning disability follows the father’s line. I was filled in with loads of possible illnesses from not only my father’s side, but my mother’s too. Mental illness and disorders ran amuck, as did many physical tendencies.
I was doomed. Or at least I felt doomed, until I began to research how to ward off each illness. Diet, exercise, alcohol, smoking, drugs, environment, stress, lifestyle, and a slew of other things would - and could - affect my tendency toward and control of possible illnesses.
On the website Scitable, which has an editorial team of close to twenty university Ph.D. professors, there was an article titled, "Some Sections of DNA DO NOT Determine Traits, but Affect the Process of Transcription: Gene Regulation." Yeah, a fun read. But what I learned in just the first paragraph was that my DNA doesn’t automatically determine who I am. Rather, there are parts of my DNA that merely direct the process. They use the example of an orchestra conductor. While each part of the orchestra has a distinct purpose and use, the conductor controls when each instrument is expressed.
This led me to an "ah-ha moment" for me. While my DNA has a set of instruments, there are so many factors that conduct what is expressed, when it is expressed, and how it is expressed. I was NOT doomed.
Our lives are not determined by our DNA.
How many criminals could live with their victims for years, decades even - and then tell them how sorry they are with their words and actions?
Those who have committed murder, rape, adultery, kidnapping, domestic violence, child abuse, fraud, told lies?
Could you? Would you commit that much love, respect, and remorse for someone you hurt long ago?
What if you loved that person. Then could you?
Could you do that for a whole family you wronged - to a mother whose children were crushed by your actions, to the children who looked to you for safety and love, to your extended family and friends?
Most people couldn't, wouldn't. Those kind of sins would be just too crippling, shameful, and hurtful to dedicate the work needed heal those relationships damaged… Right?
Not with God.
Nothing - NOTHING - is impossible for God to repair, restore, and redeem.
And the Day Came tells the story of how people can and do devote themselves to each other, to work through the pain and come out together on the other side of grace.
To read more about this topic, visit these passages of Scripture: Isaiah 41:10 || Jeremiah 32:17, 27 || Matthew 17:20; 19:26 || Mark 10:27 || Luke 1:37 || Philippians 4:13