Forgive and forget. Really? Is there such a thing as forgetness of sins?
Remembering who or what has hurt us and how is part of self-preservation, isn’t it? Once burned–twice shy. We need to remember how not to get hurt so that we can function. But does God? And if we are to be like God, do we really need to remember every pain and who caused it?
All my life I’ve been told that if I go to confession, not only does God forgive my sincerely repented sins, but also forgets that they ever happened. That seemed contradictory because God knows all and sees all. Forgiveness is not the same as un-do-ness. So, what I actually did should be known, seen and remembered by God regardless of His forgiveness of them.
But, still, I was taught that God no longer sees sincerely confessed sins. Since they can’t be undone, then there is only one alternative that I can think of. Forgetness of sins. God forgets our sins. Still, even that was incomprehensible to me until recently.
It seems I’m always preparing for confession by asking God to reveal my sins to me. I never seem to be able to grasp them all before confession. I know I’m not perfect. I know there’s much to ask forgiveness for. But rarely can I think of everything on my way into that little private room with the priest.
But recently, something different happened. I got in line for confession, but time ran out and Father closed the confessional just as my turn came up. I was really upset since I’d been in line for over an hour. Believing I was going to have surgery soon, I was concerned about getting another chance to get to confession before having a risky procedure done. I was angry but also knew that God knew what He was doing. Maybe the surgery wouldn’t be that risky. Maybe my soul wasn’t in such bad shape. Turned out I didn’t need surgery. But that’s not the important point.
I went back to my pew and waited for Mass to begin. During that time, I again prayed that I could see the sins I needed to confess. The ones I overlooked. The ones, maybe, I didn’t consider sins.
While praying an old trauma flashed to mind. I found myself getting angrier and angrier over this situation where someone really did me wrong. This so disturbed my peace that I shook it out of my head and apologized to God for letting my mind wander. I drifted back into prayer and solace.
A few minutes later, the same scene broke my peace, and my resentment of the person and situation resumed. I tried to let it go. And it went. In its place was another scene, of another situation where someone hurt me badly and left emotional scars.
By this time I was wondering why I was drumming up all the self-pitying bad stuff that had happened to me. Again, I asked God to forgive me for getting distracted and feeling sorry for myself when I should be focused on my prayers.
And then it hit me. God was answering my prayers. I’d asked Him to show me what I needed to confess, and He showed me what I needed to forgive, first.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Matthew 6:9-1
For the first time in my life, I just did as He asked and simply forgave these two people and the 5 incidents.
Yet God not only forgives, He also forgets our sins:
There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother, saying, “Learn to know Yahweh!” No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind.- Jeremiah 31: 34
I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.- Hebrews 10:17
Almost instantly, something very unusual happened. I not only forgot the incidents completely but forgot who was involved in them. To this day I have not been able to recall the incidents. I don’t remember who did them. I don’t remember how it affected me. I don’t have flashes of resentment, bad memories, or anything else to stand in the way of doing what I need to do. I had forgetness of sins.
What I do have is the confidence that if these people or things were to present themselves in a destructive manner again, that I would respond differently, not let them hurt me, and would let God help me decide how to respond. I no longer need the resentment nor the self-preservation effort.
I’m still amazed. I have no idea what happened either during those incidents or how it is that I cannot recall either one. If I can forget serious things that happened to me and that I’ve resented for years, then I guess God can offer us forgetness of sin. What a peaceful feeling it is to “Let go and Let God” for God himself also forgives and forgets our sins. I am overwhelmed and grateful to share with God the ability to forgive and forget and will never stop thanking Him for this blessing.