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My story begins a little over a year after I began to walk with Yeshua, on Rosh Hashanah, the day after a wonderful Sunday of prayer, worship and teaching from Karen Hoerdel as she presented to the church about how the ancient Jewish Feast days are infused with the presence of Messiah. (You can read Karen's teaching on Rosh Hashanah by clicking here.) This was the first of the ten Days of Awe during which Jews traditionally embark on a personal soul search to discover how they might have transgressed through the prior year, in order to repent and get it right with the Lord. That way on the Day of Atonement that ends the ten Days of Awe, Yom Kippur, they will be forgiven and written into the Book of Life for the year.

As one reborn in Yeshua, I am written into the Book of Life forever by God's grace because I have accepted his offer of salvation. Nevertheless, this time of year serves as an opportunity to grow more like Christ's example through self-examination and repentence. As the ten days began I was asking for and awaiting some indication from God of what he wanted me to repent for. I couldn't think of anything on my own, and even flirted with the idea that I might get a waver this year.

On this warm and pleasant Monday I was on a solitary bike ride along a lovely canal. The trail grew narrow and overgrown with branches. Ahead of me was a young man on a bicycle and I came up to him quickly because while I was going at a moderate pace, he was dawdling. His feet were not even bothering to pedal, but just nudging his bike along. He was mumbling to himself, immersed in his own world. He was a teenager, wearing a backpack and oversized jeans flopping around his skinny legs. I invented as much clicking bicycle noise as I could to get his attention so I might pass him, but for the longest time he didn't seem to hear.

At last he noticed me and immediately pressed himself against the greenery so I could pass. Instantly he recognized me, which surprised me since I thought I was well disguised in my helmet and sunglasses. Before I had even passed him he said, "You're Raechel's mom." and I saw that it was Patrick.


Just then I began to marvel at how deliciously the Lord weaves a story, because by chance just the prior Thursday, less than one week before this day, I had been sitting around with my extended family celebrating my niece's birthday, when for some reason the subject of childhood bullies came up. Each of us had a story to tell. I encouraged Raechel to tell her story about Patrick, who, when they were little used to torture Raechel mercilessly with cruel words, tauntings and insults until she'd come home in tears. This boy bullied many people, not just Raech.

What makes the story interesting is that when he reached age 16 Patrick revisited those he had tortured as a child and asked for their forgiveness and understanding, explaining the difficult family problems he was going through at that early age. He apologized to Raech and she forgave him, and they became friends. They enjoyed one another's company in their first year in the dorms at college. This contrite and brave young man was the dawdling cyclist that I was thrown into such a close encounter with on the narrow bike path.

I took the opportunity to tell him how much his repentence meant not just to Raechel but to all of us in the family, and I encouraged him and gave him my fond appreciation. As I rode away I marvelled at how God had placed him in my path, as if to say, you cannot pass on the narrow way without forgiveness. For Patrick was not one whom I had done any wrong to, except the wrong of never having forgiven him for the pain he caused my daughter. To initiate the subject of unforgiveness, the infinitely gentle Lord started me off with one who was very easy to forgive. I instantly recognized God's plan for my ten Days of Awe and set about discovering who I needed to forgive.

I spent a day or two mulling over the forgiveness process, grateful for some direction and excited about God's responsiveness to my prayers. Three people came to mind that I felt I needed to forgive for occurrances in the last year. I shared my thoughts with Karen over the phone and she brought my attention to the parable of the man whose debt the Master forgives, who then turns around and deals cruelly and unforgivingly with one who owes him money. Over the course of several hours this parable began to reveal to me how filthy and abhorrant to God is an unforgiving heart. Gradually like a scene from a horror movie a door slowly creaked open showing at first the three people I was thinking of forgiving and gradually revealing an ocean of people.

"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:32-35)
Again my mind went back to the night of Delia's birthday celebration. That night I had shocked myself with the words that tumbled out of my mouth when I told my stories of being bullied. For all my family to hear I had recalled incident after incident in which I was victimized as a child, including assaults, sexual molestation, neglect and pain. I'd asked myself at the time, "Why did I need to say all that?" Clearly my need for the pain to be acknowledged, particularly by my father, was undeniable and uncontrollable.

I could have filled the British Museum with all the priceless treasures of hurt and pain. As the door to my vast cultivation of unforgiveness continued to open and I saw all the offenses and hurts I'd been collecting, nurturing and harboring since childhood, I marveled again at God's guiding hand. Never have I been so lovingly told that my ways are abhorrant.

I began to see the unforgiven offenses with spiritual eyes. Some were death-blue chains with neat packets of leaden mass at the ends. I was dragging them around. Some appeared as so ancient, so closely linked to every day of my life that they were like a cancer whose tendrils reached into every part of my being. I saw my fervent attachment to the offenses as an addiction to the sickly sweet reward of self-righteous pathos and indignation.

As the day wore on I thought I would never come to the end of my unforgiveness. I wept. I went and bought a coffee and a muffin, broke down in the coffee shop and left my food and drink untouched on the counter. I stood raw in a new world. In spite of my tender state I had to buy a prescription at Long's Drugs. Just as I was leaving I looked at the clerk who'd helped me and for just a moment I seemed to see her as God sees her. I saw what a beautiful treasure God's creation is and suddenly I understood the meaning of the words, "as I have loved you." We are to love one another as he has loved us. How does he love us? With a desire to forgive that underlies the whole story of God's relationship to us, even to the point of willingness to suffer rejection, scourging, ridicule and death on a cross so that we can be forgiven. We need only ask and it is given freely and immediately.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)
I knew that I couldn't forgive all those many people and times and places with my own power. I needed to forgive not just people, but the 60's! I needed to forgive my middle school! All of Berkeley! I prayed for Jesus to help me. That night I wrote as many names and words as I could on a piece of paper. I went over each one with the Lord and asked that it be thrown into the sea of forgetfulness, with his help and by his grace. It took many hours, and when I was done I experienced peace, thankfulness and the beginning of freedom.
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)

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