What is forgiveness?
How does forgiveness work in one's life? How do we know we have forgiven someone? Is it possible to believe we have forgiven someone and find out we did not forgive? How does this forgiveness thing work for us?
Recently, I had an opportunity to experience real forgiveness.
My husband and I moved to our current location seven years ago. We live in rural America where everyone knows everyone. Growing up many years ago in this area and returning home, I knew a few of the people by family names only.
A most bizarre incident happened about six years ago.
One day I went into the local general store for an item or two. I was encountered by a terrorist. Quietly, this old man came up to me and out of the clear blue accused me of burning down his garage. This is July and his garage burn down in March. I was dumbfounded to say the least. First, I thought the old man was joking along with me or he had just gone crazy. I knew he was not joking when he said he could put me away for several years if I did not take care of his loss. He even said, "I know someone who saw you do it."
Needless to say, I contacted my attorney, immediately. Bottom line the old man did not have property insurance.
I was new kid on the block, so to speak, so maybe I could have extra money. Apparently, he thought his terrorist attack would collect dishonest money for his losses.
To make a long story short. The old man died a couple weeks ago.
I felt no remorse. When I heard of his death, my first reaction was a flashback in the general store where I nearly had a heart attack from this man's false accusation.
I made the statement to a couple friends that he had many opportunities during the past six years to make things right with me. However, my comment was, "I did forgive him."
This man has two nephews who are my friends. We have worked together on projects in our community. However, I did not show my respect to these two gentlemen by any condolence at the loss of their uncle. As I said, I felt no remorse for this man.
A few days went by and I was led to read the book of Job. I did not know why I was prompted to read this book. In my reading of it, I learned a life lesson.
Job had three friends to visit him during his time of enormous suffering. They made false accusations accounting for his misery. If you know the story of Job, he had tremendous loss including the loss of his children, his possessions and even his own health; and, yet even in all his suffering, he never stopped believing and trusting God.
The Lord said to one of the friends, I am angry with you and your two friends for you have not been right with what you've said about my servant Job.
However, Job 42:10 says that when Job prayed for these three friends, the Lord restored Job's fortunes. God restored Job's health, possessions and more children. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before. This is powerful, indeed.
God jolted my memory at this moment.
Did I pray to God and ask Him to forgive the terrorist who falsely accused me? Did I? I was now face to face with a statement I had flippantly made earlier, "I did forgive him."
Had I really forgiven this man?
No, I had not forgiven him. In the six years, I never approached my God about this ugly incident. I was thinking only of myself and my integrity. A false accusation violates your very soul and being. It is like you are being robbed of your goodness.
I would pleasantly greet the old man when I met him in the town square and I thought this was my act of forgiveness.
I learned a life lesson in forgiveness.
What do I do now?
My terrorist is dead and I had not forgiven him. Immediately, I humbled myself before my God and ask His forgiveness for a lie. I had deceived myself. During the past six years when I would see this man in public, I would greet him and nothing more. His presence always reminded me of his evil deed.
My God, My God chose his servant Job to teach me a life lesson in forgiveness. I am thankful I listened to God.
Did it take a false accusation and six years later to teach me a lesson in forgiveness? It surely did. With deep gratitude, I am thankful for Job's fine example of forgiveness.
By the mercy of God, I am at peace and I have learned the act of forgiving.