As an older man looking back on my life, I see mistakes made. Is there hope for us who make mistakes and need forgiveness? I believe so. Back in my late twenties, I met an intelligent young woman with sex appeal. Before I acquired enough maturity and self discipline, I hurriedly got married. Too many relational problems brought down a 7 year old, painful marriage. It took me 10 years to finally write to my former wife and ask for forgiveness for mistakes I made. Only then did needed healing begin to happen.
Earlier, I had made a mistake with my alcoholic father. During a brief visit before I left the USA to join a Church Peace Corps, I confronted my dad in Denver. He was having trouble at work with a couple of his African American employees. When he came home he started using the “N” word as he vented his frustration about the two young men. I responded as one who had just spent a year working in a church in Gary, Indiana, one who was working through his own racist attitudes. I said, “Dad, they are not what you call them. They are young men.” Having had a few too many drinks, he reacted by punching me in the face! I instantly responded by striking back and knocking him down! What a painful mistake we both made. Seven years later when I was by his bedside as he lay dead, I silently forgave him. A couple years thereafter, I finally forgave myself for hitting him.
A few months ago, I made another error as a driver of a big rig. My trucking company has a policy of limiting drivers to a max speed of 69 mph. I exceeded this when going downhill. My manager chewed me out in a very forceful way. Many days later, I forgave him for putting me on a year’s probation.
In 1986 I followed the Governor’s Sanctuary Proclamation for the State of New Mexico. Two Salvadoran refugees, afraid to be in their country while it was in a deadly war, needed my help. In 1987, I was indicted with 9 felony counts. My second wife went to my attorney and said she wanted to divorce so she would not lose our recently adopted daughter. If I were to have been found guilty and became a felon, we would have been unable to adopt a child from another country. Sixteen years later, we did divorce.
I have forgiven her, and myself, for mistakes made which brought down our marriage. Forgiveness has been fully granted, it seems to me, when I look at the blessing of our two wonderful children. Healing for my second wife and me is ongoing.
As I think of these and other errors made during my lifetime, I reflect on another man, called a divine man, whose choices could be cast by some, as mistakes. That man is called Jesus of Nazareth. He gave up a career as a carpenter and chose to become a homeless person. He later was killed on a cross as a criminal.
What a strange happening for a young man of 33. Was it a mistake to give up his life for his friends, as well as for his enemies? I believe not. Millions over the centuries have come to believe that Jesus’ cruel death brings forgiveness for us all. People of faith who daily make million of mistakes, including doing war on others, have come to accept that which is healing for everyone. Namely, believing that forgiveness is for real.
I have spent 64 years of life so far. My belief continues, that is, striving for forgiveness of myself, my children, my wife, my boss and others. I believe I can forgive. What strength this brings to me when I feel the pain of my mistakes. Forgiveness is real. It can heal our broken world.
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