My friend, Ken Ferber, wrote a book, Beyond Humpty Dumpty and this morning I read a story he shared about Corrie ten Boom, Dutch Holocaust survivor who helped Jews escape Nazis during WW II. After the war she was speaking in a church in Munich, telling her story, when she spotted a man who had been guard in the Ravensbruck camp where she and her sister had suffered and her sister had died. He approached her after her talk and said to her: “How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” Her blood froze, ten Boom said. The man went on. “I was a guard (at Ravensbruck)…but since that time have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well, Fraulein.” Then he extended his hand and held it there as ten Boom wrestled inside herself.
She had to do it, she said, for the message that God forgives has a prior condition. She remembered the line in the Our Father, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.” She continued to stand there “with the coldness, clutching (her) heart. Then she told herself that she could at least lift her hand. She prayed to Jesus to help her and as she did it (woodenly, mechanically) and she felt a warmth come down from her shoulder, through her arm and into their joined hands. “I forgive you, my brother,” she said to the man.
“I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then,” she said.
When I think of some of the petty things I have forgiven, I realize that my love has not really been stretched as it was for people like Corrie ten Boom. God has taught me to love and forgive in baby steps. But I do know, that as I have yielded to his will for me, I find forgiveness easier, almost to the point of forgiving in the instance that I am hurt. The ability to forgive has contributed more to the serenity I feel right now than anything in my life.
Corrie ten Boom was a Christian and Jesus was the source of her strength to forgive. But in today’s world, psychologists know the power of forgiveness to heal people mentally and emotionally. The healing begins in the person who has been harmed, but my experience is that it has the potential to overflow and heal those who have harmed us as well. But that work, we have to leave in the hands of a Higher Power. Our part is to let go of the bitterness and blame that eat at our soul.