Breaking Free of Your Prison Cell

By Patrick Hawthorne

forgiveJust recently, I came across an old “Happy Days” television rerun that perfectly illustrates walking in unforgiveness.

In this particular episode, a character played by Tom Hanks shows up out of the blue and wants to fight the Fonz for something that happened seventeen years earlier when they were eight years old. In the typical comedy fashion, Tom Hanks attacks the Fonz but is not able to inflict any damage.

Towards the end of the fight, when the Fonz is about to take his turn inflicting injury, he tells the Tom Hanks character, “You stood up to the Fonz…I like that.”  Tom Hanks then asks the Fonz if after all these years he still thought him a coward. To that Fonz just looks at him and says, “This may come as a shock to you, but for all these years I haven’t given you a thought…I hate that you spent seventeen years tormenting yourself.”

Although the show was a fake, there was truth in what was said. Think back to a time when someone hurt you. If you are like most people, each time you crossed paths with that particular person, the memory of the event resurfaced. Immediately, as if on auto drive, you began to replay the incident in your mind as if it just happened.

I know of people who have been hanging on to a particular hurt for years. Each simply refuses to forgive the person who did them wrong. In some cases, the one who did the hurting has moved on and has no clue that the other person is harboring these ill feelings. Constantly we hear of grown people who use past hurts as a justifier for their present status in life. They have become slaves to the past, imprisoned in a cell of their own making. They have allowed the bully to become their masters.

The grace for forgiveness is the ability to pray, “Father, so-and-so hurt me, but I forgive them as You have forgiven me. I ask that You open my eyes to see them in the love that You have for them.” When we pray with an open and sincere heart, God will begin the process of replacing the hurt and negative feelings with an honest love for that person. As a result, the next time we see that particular person, we will begin to rehearse our prayer of forgiveness and love and not the feelings of hurt.

Is forgiveness always easy?  No, it is not. If it were then we would not need God’s grace. Does it happen overnight?  In most cases no, it does not. However, when we begin to let God have the hurt He will, according to His Word, turn our sorrow into joy.

Does forgiveness mean we are to automatically trust the person who did us wrong?  Definitely not!  Once trust is lost it is up to the offender to prove that they can be trusted again. As one person said, “Forgive freely, trust slowly.” There is truth in the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”  Wisdom should always be a companion when opening the door to trust.

What if the one you are failing to forgive is yourself?  Maybe you are having a hard time getting past your “old” self and your selfish deeds. Whatever it is that is keeping you from forgiving yourself, be comforted by the knowledge that you were on the mind of Jesus when He hung on the cross. Remember that you hold the key to your prison cell. The only guard holding you back from leaving that cell is you. The same blood that was shed for the forgiveness of sins is the same blood that has set you free from your past.

Jesus freely offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice in order that we could be free from all personal efforts to make ourselves respectable. Through His blood we can have a clear conscience no matter what we did or how bad we may have been (Hebrews 9:14-15).  Be blessed.

Taken from my book “Simply Grace.”
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