What is this? Forgiveness has been described as “spiritual surgery”. By the grace of God, to be able to have the grudge that grinds you down, the hurt that hounds you, and all that toxic resentment miraculously removed is more or less a surgical procedure. Last week, the eleven members of our Mexico Mission team ventured to Guerrero Vincente, about four hours south of the border on the Baja, to serve, work, and learn at the orphanage there. We were exposed to children and teenagers that had such tragic stories to tell as to how they landed at the orphanage. Sometimes, the Mexican social services brought them as a last resort. Other times, parents voluntarily surrendered custody of their children, some of them newborn, because they couldn’t afford to provide or the families had destructive issues around addiction and/or criminal activity. One can only imagine the personal trauma, abandonment issues, and general troubles that such a family history would inevitably lead to for these young people moving into the future.
What does this mean? At the beginning of each day at the orphanage, there was chapel that included lots of singing and some remarkable sharing. The youth had been away the previous week at camp and were sharing of their experiences. Many of the students spoke of attending a workshop, “the operating room” that triggered a life-changing difference. Some of the students would begin sharing by saying that they thank God for protecting them through the night and sleeping in a safe place. Makes you wonder about what they went through at their family home. A few revealed that in “the operating room” they felt the presence of God as they were confronted with the need to forgive their mother for discarding them or their father for being an addict. Yes, coming to the orphanage was for the best, but their mother and father are still their mother and father, their family is still their family. I cannot emphasize enough how young, vulnerable, and what innocent victims these children were and yet, by the grace of God, they were able to forgive, or at least begin the prayerful and painful process. As is often the case, the person who is healed the most by forgiveness is the one who forgives.
What is the takeaway? So many of us have our own painful history with our families. I would guess our experiences are not as traumatic as the children or maybe yours is. We carry grudges, harbor resentment, and still feel the residual pain of decades ago due to our parents. I was taken aback by the willingness and wisdom of the spiritual leaders to have these young people take on such a powerful and pervasive core issue almost immediately upon arriving at the orphanage. There is an audacity to their faith, that God is Christ can actually affect healing at such a core level to such wounded individuals. And yet, there is such spiritual wisdom to begin by removing obstacles and healing the hurts to build a new foundation. I remember when I had hip replacement surgery. My part was to show up and submit to surgery. When I woke up the doctor said you have a new hip. It was like a new beginning. So it is with forgiveness as spiritual surgery. In Christ, we show up before the cross, submit to his care, trust his grace to do its’ work, that opens the way for a new future. The process is painful, as we witnessed in the vulnerable and pained faces of the young people, but the healing is real and freedom is the big miracle. On our last day at the orphanage, I stood up at chapel and shared how much these testimonies of the children had personally impacted and encouraged me. And I added that as an adult who grew up with alcoholism in my family, that healing is possible and God is faithful. To which many in the crowd echoed, “Amen!”