In the last few weeks, I ran into a few roadblocks when I was in court as a witness. In both cases which focused on custody issues, attorneys questioned me about the character of parents. They focused on behavior that happened several years ago, using that information to keep children away from the parent. I was deeply saddened. The attorneys pounded these parents, who were seeking a return to normal parenting time, accusing them of historic behaviors that no longer are present. There appeared to be no room for forgiveness, repentance, and redemption, even when those negative behaviors no longer exist.
As a Christian I believe that people can change. The angry can become peaceful. Alcoholism can go into remission. People can give up violence as a way of solving problems.
People can learn new skills and attitudes and ways of thinking that lead to fruitful lives. Depression and anxiety can be healed. Past injuries do not have to rule our lives. We can move on to better ways of behaving and living.
Is there anyone among us who has not done something illegal that if they had been caught could have spent time in jail, or had a driving license revoked, or destroyed a relationship? Who among us has not lied, cheated, stolen, been violent, abused drugs, or broken the law in other ways? Who among us does not have skeletons in our closet? Who among us had not done something that we are deeply ashamed of? There may be a few of us, but not many. We all have a past, some of which we are not proud of.
One of the things I like about being a Catholic Christian is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that sacrament Jesus forgives our sinful behavior so that we can leave it behind and live holier lives. While we remain sinners, we are forgiven. We are made ok with God and make promises to not commit that sin again.
I was reminded while witnessing in court, how hard it is for some people to forgive. It is so much easier to hold a grudge, blame others for our problems, hold deep resentments, instead of forgiving them. A priest once said that when we remember someone who had injured us that we ought to do what Jesus did on the cross. He looked to heaven and asked God to forgive those killing him, stating that they didn’t know what they were doing.
Why can’t we do the same? Why can’t we accept that people change? Why can’t we let go of dysfunctional pasts to live in the joy of the present? Why can’t we forgive? I don’t know about you, but time is running out for me. I no longer have time for resentments, grudges and unforgiveness. I don’t expect others to forgive me. I do my part by asking for forgiveness and if they don’t forgive me, it’s on them. Besides, God never keeps a record of wrongs. We remain forgiven sinners.
“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon you, be gracious to you and give you his peace.”