Moses finished strong because he learned how to forgive. Though we never hear him say, “I forgive you,” we see it lived out. Over and over, he prayed for God to bless the ones who wounded him the most. For example, when God threatened to destroy Israel because of the golden calf, he interceded, “Lord…why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” (Exodus 32:11)
My son and I were recently invited to go deep-sea fishing with a friend on his boat. He purchased the bait and made his poles available to us. My son had watched many YouTube videos about catching monsters in the ocean and was thrilled to go. We arrived out our fishing spot, about 10 miles offshore. Down below was a large reef, what anglers call “structure.” We hooked chunks of squid on our hooks and sank them to the bottom. After about an hour of sitting there, my son’s’ pole began to bob. It was like Christmas morning as he began reeling in his gift. But then the unthinkable happened. The pole bent over and the drag started to scream. But before he could set himself, our friend ran across the deck and took the pole out his hands. As Arlie stood there, he reeled in his fish – a two and a half foot barracuda!
On the way home, there wasn’t much talking. My son finally spoke up, “He took the rod out of my hands! He reeled in my fish!” A few weeks later it came up again, “Remember, when I caught that barracuda and my pole was taken away? That was my fish. That was my one chance to reel in a big one, and he took it away.” Months later, it came up again, “Remember how he reeled in my fish?” So, we stopped right there and had a little talk about forgiveness.
One of the signs of unforgiveness and bitterness, is the remembering. You continually bring it up and keep it fresh. One of the Greek words used in the New Testament is the word aphiemi, which also means “to send away, to let go, or release.” When we forgive, we send the offense away. We look at the offense sitting like a homeless kitten wanting to come into the home of heart and snuggle, and we say, “You’re not coming in. Go away.”
When those we love wound us, we must take time to grieve, mourn, and cry. But, we don’t want to live there. Ever felt like someone took your pole, your fish away? We must trust that whatever happens in our life, God can make all things work for our good. I’m thankful my wife was there when we had this conversation. She suggested a new way of looking at the situation. Maybe our friend took the pole to save Arlie’s, to protect him from being pulled overboard into the ocean, ten miles from shore.
If we’re going to finish strong, we have to learn to forgive. St. Francis of Assisi once composed a prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer called The Our Father of Saint Francis of Assisi. From the words, “…as we forgive those trespass against us” he wrote this, “and if we do not forgive perfectly, Lord, make us forgive perfectly, so that we may really love our enemies for love of You, and pray fervently to you for them, returning no one evil for evil, anxious only to serve everybody in you.”