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We can forgive and forget

From the May 22, 1995 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


My husband and I learned long ago that it is in prayer to God that every need is met. When my husband began to suffer with a backache, it was natural to turn to God for help. As we were praying, Paul's words to the Christians in Philippi came to mind: "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13–14). We knew that God, ever-present Mind, is constantly furnishing the right idea, exposing whatever is wrong, and enabling us to correct it.

We saw there had to be a profound lesson in this verse, an answer to our prayers. We realized that if anyone could have been paralyzed by the past, with no hope for the future, surely it was Paul. He had been a persecutor of the Christians and a staunch enemy of the gospel. But once converted to Christianity, Paul completely changed direction in his life. When through the Christ, Truth, he had glimpsed a powerful love that could forgive even while it destroyed the wrong, he gained new views of God and man. This led to a transformation of thought and behavior. He let go of negative character traits and past sins. The past could have rendered him useless, but forgetting the past, he looked ahead to the future.

As his thought was changed, Paul learned that God does indeed "blot out" transgressions (see Ps. 51:1), and he was able to forgive himself, forget the past, and press on toward the mark of the true Christian, expressing gentle, Godlike qualities, which so distinguished the life of Christ Jesus.

As my husband and I pondered these things, it became clear that it was time for us to be rid of a heavy mental burden. It was one we had both been carrying for over forty years. Raised as a Christian Scientist, I learned to love the good I saw in others. So I was not prepared for my family's reaction to my husband when we were married. They saw him as coming from the "wrong side" of town, but I saw him as loving, honest, faithful, hard-working, and always ready to help others. When we, in our innocence, visited my brothers, we were told in no uncertain terms we were not welcome. Until we could demonstrate more fully that all are harmonious brethren, we felt it wise, like Abraham (see Gen. 13:5–9), to part from them, rather than have strife between us.

Over the years, my husband had pressed on his own way toward the mark of following Christ Jesus, learning more of man's true nature and status as God's creation. Through his study of Christian Science, he had many beautiful healings. He joined a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, and had class instruction.

Then one day one of my brothers approached me after church with tears in his eyes. He said that the family had thought that my children would end up in jail by the time they were grown, and that he realized how wrong they had been to think such things. I was shocked. I asked him, "Don't we have the same Father? Why did you think such things?" He dropped his head and simply said, "I don't know."

I couldn't say anything. I went home and cried. I had to deal with my own thoughts of resentment! I prayed with these words from Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy: "Step by step will those who trust Him find that 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble'" (p. 444). I knew that the spiritual sense of the facts of being reveals our "present help."

God's law of progress calls upon us to take each step in the way to perfection. Spiritual sense helps us onward from the first moment we recognize that there is an argument of a lack of spirituality until we increasingly attain the understanding of the flawless perfection of God and man. Divine wisdom is perpetually urging us to rise higher into a fuller understanding of our true individuality as God's spiritual reflection, to awaken to the truth that we are all now the children of God.

Later, when this same brother was faced with an alarming problem and called on me for help, my heart went out to him. I was able unconditionally to give him my love and support.

But how did all this relate to my husband's current challenge? As we were praying, we saw that in the time since he had retired, we had been thinking a lot about the past. We were surprised to see how much resentment was held in thought and had not been healed. We came to see that the root of the problem was error, what the New Testament calls walking in the vanity of your mind (see Eph. 4:17). We had been living with anger, bitterness, and resentment based on what we perceived as wrongs committed by others, as well as guilt over our own mistakes. The author of Ephesians describes this false state of mind when he speaks of those who have "the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (4:18).

We learned that it is essential to our spiritual progress and our well-being that we love another enough to know him or her as God does, as the beloved and loving child of divine Love itself. And we knew that we had to cast aside this false sense of the past, forgive, and forget. We let our concept of the true individuality of the whole family of man be formed by divine wisdom and set aside the false opinions that blind one of the good that is the natural state of the children of God. This exercise of forgiveness, which is an indispensable quality of divine Love itself, transformed my husband's thought and brought freedom to the body.

Each of us must experience his or her own growth. But we can rejoice that God compels this growth, works this changing in us, and, though it may not seem so while we are experiencing it, it is a working "together for good to them that love God" (Rom.8:28). This really is the answer to our prayers.

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