Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Expiration Dates and Deep Cleaning

From the pantry to the file cabinet to the little storage space beside our furnace, I am sorting through what has accumulated largely over the past four years.  Some are documents that need to be saved for taxes or records, but oh, why did I save that?

It is new year therapy to organize the mess in the closets and examine expiration dates on items that not only shouldn't be kept, but not eaten at all.  I know all too well how clutter can take on a life of its own.  Two locations ago, I realized that we were moving to a house without a basement.  And out of necessity, most of those things that I held onto "because we might need it someday" were passed on to someone who could actually use them.  Even the boxes and boxes of meaningless trophies from the self-esteem 1990s when "everyone gets a trophy." found a new purpose by an organization that re-uses them for their urban sports ministry.

The new year is a good time to clean up and let go. more ways than one.

We serve a God of newness, a God Who doesn't just recycle and reuse, but redeems.  And part of that redeeming, that newness, is forgiveness.
The dictionary that my father began using in 1931
 states that forgiveness:
     " ...not only lifts the punishment or consequences
                                      from the offender,
      but restores him
            to an unresentful place
      in the affections of the offended."

Forgiveness is not just a letting go,
      a forgetting,
      a willful looking past,
but the re-establishment
                 of what has been broken.

In that same dictionary, right above the listing for forgiveness is the word "forget."  They are listed close-by not just because of alphabetizing, but because they go hand-in-hand.  Forgive, forget.  You don't see one without the other.   Forgive lets go.  Forget finishes the task by ceasing to retain the offense in one's memory.  Don't let it clutter up the chambers of your heart.

The heart is stubborn and willful.  Use that same strong will to forgive and forget. If you have offended, ask forgiveness.  But if you are the offended, go to God alone. Let go of the bitterness.  And  "restore that person to an unresentful place" in your affections.

Forgiveness doesn't just happen.  It is a decision to release the offender and declare, "You don't owe me," says James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. "And after you have forgiven them, never bring it up again before God, before others, or before yourself.  Release them and live it out."

And as my dear four-year-old granddaughter says:
            "Forget about it!"

It will not only change your relationship with the forgiven,
it will change your relationships with others,
it will change your relationship with God,
it will change you.
Forgiveness even impacts your grandchildren.
It imparts grace to the next generation
               instead of unresolved conflict.

And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

                             Matthew 6.12

I love how Jesus did not just come to earth
with a set of rules
or even to reinforce the commandments
                 to love God and love others,
but to fulfill them.
Jesus calls us to go beyond,
         to exceed the norm,
                and to pursue the unexpected.

Then Peter came up and said to Him,
"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me,
and I forgive him?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus said to him,
      "I do not say to you seven times,
but seventy times seven."

                              Matthew 18. 21-22

          and forget about it.
God will redeem.


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