Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13
Gnarled trees stood twisted and broken along the road. Judy and I had to make a trip to Florida to participate in my Aunt’s funeral. She was my Daddy’s baby sister and the last of that generation. It was a long trip but worth the journey. I saw it as a way to honor my father while also honoring my aunt. Like every person her life had its ups and downs and bumps and bruises. And like every person, there were a few scars left along the road.
It was while traveling West in Florida that I began seeing the gnarled trees. Mile after mile of trees that were either broken in two, forever bent over or simply lifeless, like dead men standing. I knew the area had been brushed by a recent storm or two but this damage was caused by something far worse—and not so recently. Suddenly it occurred to me. I had seen this before about two years ago. It was the result of a storm, a terrible storm called Michael.
If you remember in 2018 a compact yet incredibly powerful storm came ashore at Mexico Beach, a small down on the Florida panhandle. It was so devastating that it literally destroyed that small town and the path of the storm with its destruction moved well inland. That is where we saw the scars. When we were here a couple of months after the storm and miles and miles inland there was debris piled everywhere along the highway. What wasn’t broken off or blown over looked like it had been given a perm—twisted and turned. That was two years ago.
The scars of that harsh and horrible day remain today and will remain for many years to come. Only time is going to slow erase the damage as trees re-grow and underbrush hides what has fallen. It looked devastating two years ago when I saw it and today, somehow, it looked even more so. Sometimes the scars are almost as bad as the wounds. Sometimes the memories are worse than what caused the pain.
Many of us have caused scars and most of us bear them. Some are still healing while others, like the gnarled trees, will remain. We are left to wonder what to do…how to heal. The answer I believe lies with creator God. It is He who can give us the strength to forgive and it is He who can lead us down the path to healing. Like a good recipe, it will include a measure of grace, a measure of mercy, and a measure of choice. Forgiveness is really never about the one who caused the scar rather it is about the one who was hurt. When we forgive we truly begin to heal.
Forgiveness also involves forgetting…but not the kind you are thinking. This forgetting simply means that we choose to not allow the past to control our present. We choose to let go, so we can be set free. When we determine that the past won’t reach into our present…we find a freedom. While the scar will remain, slowly but surely the pain eases and we are evently left whole.
This, of course, is a faith path. We have to believe that God can and will heal us. We have to believe that God can forgive us if we were the one who caused the scar. We have to believe either way that His grace is sufficient and do you know what? It is. The scars I saw today along the highway spoke of a devastating storm but it also spoke of hope. You see, at the base of the gnarled trees stood dozens and dozens of new growth trees. One day, someday in the future, they will rise to overcome the past with its scars. That is our hope.
As I stood before that group of people today and spoke of mistakes and regrets. I also spoke of forgiveness and grace which was and is a game changer. No matter how difficult your past and no matter how uncertain your future, His grace will see you through. I hope you will keep trusting Him day by day. I hope you will look up for hope, look around to see that you aren’t by yourself and look down, yes down, but only to see the new life surrounding you. Hey, you can trust Him, you can rest in Him because no matter how hard the wind blows or how long it howls…He’s got this.