July 29th, 2018. Santo Domingo Airport, Dominican Republic.
It was an early morning, 5 am to be exact. The team of missionaries I had spent the past two weeks working with and I were waiting in the security line waiting to board our flight back home. Hot, sick, and missing the comfort of my own home, all I could think about was getting on that plane and making it home to my wife. The line was crawling, and to make matters worse, our flight was boarding soon. If you’ve ever traveled before, you know the stress of trying to make your flight while fighting against the turtle like pace of airport security and customs. Finally, I arrived at the counter where they would check my passport and send me on my way home to America. I smile at the man combing through my passport, but he scowls back at me. He then makes a call to someone, and proceeds to tell me to make my way down this darkened hall…. in the opposite direction of my gate! I begin freaking out. I walk down the hallway where I am met by soldiers. They put me in a room with an angry soldier who is yelling in Spanish on the phone. I have no clue what I have done, no clue what to even do. I am trapped, stuck in a situation that I have no control over! The only thought running through my mind was that I was going to a Dominican jail and that I would not see my wife that day or any day in the near future. Eventually, I was released and was allowed to board the plane. I still don’t know why I was lucky enough to be selected, but never in my life have I been so afraid of being stuck in a place I knew I didn’t belong.
I find it interesting that we as humans love to be in control, but we hate being controlled. It really is ironic. When we sense that we are being trapped in a situation, a relationship, a job, or even an airport, our instinct is to run. To get out of that situation. To find freedom.
We run from the people or situations that have tried to hurt us, or have hurt us and just when we think that we’re free from the pain of that situation, we fall into another “prison.” The difference is that this time, the prison we can fall into is one of our own construction and design. It’s the prison of un-forgiveness to which we ourselves have built the walls to.
I know what you’re thinking… “Josh, that’s a bit melodramatic.” Maybe, but I think the imagery is spot on.
You see, un-forgiveness, at its core, is the separation of two people. When we refuse to forgive someone, we put up a fence because of an offence that has happened. Not only does this lead to isolation from those around you (hello, just like a prison), but it also makes Satan’s job so much easier. When we refuse to forgive someone, we are actually doing Satan’s job for him!
The devil thrives on division. John 10:10 tells us that “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” Destruction is the devil’s ultimate goal and his strategy is division! That’s why what Jesus says in Mark 3:24-25 about a house divided against itself cannot stand is so important! We need to strive for unity. In our marriages, our friendships, our families, and in our churches.
When we choose forgiveness, to let go of the offences that have accumulated, we are ultimately choosing to unify and deny Satan his goal of division. I love what Steven Furtick once said, “the limit to which we refuse to forgive is the limit that we choose to be free. So the question is not how much will you forgive, but rather how much freedom do you desire?”
I don’t know what you’re holding on to today. I won’t even begin to pretend that I can understand the pain and circumstances that you have faced in your life. Forgiveness is never easy, and it is never instantaneous. It is a process that takes time. But it starts with a small step.
When we don’t learn to drop it and our un-forgiveness accumulates, and even where we don’t believe that reconciliation is possible, release is always available.
Lewis B Smedes says that, “forgiveness is the act of letting a prisoner free, and that prisoner is you.”
Is there something that you’ve been holding onto that has been keeping you divided? Break out of the walls you’ve contained yourself in. Let God demolish your excuses for holding on to un-forgiveness. Make a prison break.