“What have I told you about taking notes in class?”
My head jerked up to find Mr. Lawson towering over me, arms folded across his chest, glaring at my incriminating paper. He was clearly annoyed at having to interrupt his lecture on traffic signals and roadsigns.
“I… I’m sorry, sir. I was just doodling. I didn’t mean to…” My face grew hot as I could feel the eyes of the entire driver’s education class on me.
“Hooligan! I’ve told you not to write anything in class! I want you to listen to me when I’m speaking! Go stand in the corner for the rest of class.”
Horrified, I stared at Mr. Lawson, thinking he must be joking. Would he really make an 18-year-old stand in the corner? But he merely pointed to the far end of the room, waiting for me to move. Utterly humiliated, I quickly gathered my books and slunk off, trying to ignore the laughter and whispers of the other students.
It’s so unfair! I steamed. I’m a good student. I’m NOT a hooligan! And I WAS listening to him. That’s such a stupid rule. Taking notes helps me to pay attention in class! I hate him.
It’s been years since that humiliating experience in driver’s ed class, but each time I replay that scenario in my head, I dredge up those painful emotions again and stoke the fires of bitterness. I feel the burning shame of being falsely accused and the anger of the injustice. I’ve never forgiven Mr. Lawson for what he did.
But I don’t WANT to forgive him! My heart protests. He had NO right to treat me that way. He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.
If I stay angry, somehow it feels like I’m punishing him. But if I ever want to be FREE of these painful memories, I need to consciously and specifically forgive him. Though it’s been more than 15 years since that driver’s ed class, this morning, in my living room, I take some time to walk through the steps of forgiveness, with the Processing the Issues of My Heart booklet.
When I finish, there are no choirs of angels singing, no bright pools of light or warm electric tingles. But deep in my spirit, I know something significant has happened today.
After all these years, I have finally relinquished my spot on the “judge’s seat” and torn up my list of offenses and injustices. That painful experience doesn’t have a hold on me anymore. That shame and humiliation doesn’t define me. That anger and bitterness doesn’t control me. Shame OFF me, in Jesus’ name! I will have to forgive again and again if these memories came back, but I will continue to CHOOSE to forgive, because Christ has forgiven me and set me FREE!
“Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me. Make haste, O Lord, to help me. Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.”
Psalm 40:13, 17