Jewish Journal

Freedom in Forgiveness

by Beit T'shuvah

August 13, 2013 | 10:48 am

By Lance Wright

As I sit here before my computer, contemplating what to write, my thoughts drift to the value and meaning of freedom. Not too many years ago, I wondered what freedom would be like and if I would ever enjoy it again. I had become a slave to a lifestyle of drugs and criminality from a very young age and as a result, spent many years away from society. For many years (and even in some ways today) my humanity was and is defined by the destructive actions of the lifestyle I lived, and in truth I am responsible for both. Taking ownership of my destructive past from a heartfelt place of repentance before our Creator was my beginning towards a future of freedom.

As we approach the New Year I am reminded of the chains of guilt and shame that bound me to the Egypt of my own making. Feelings of unworthiness and sinfulness permeated my soul. It had become much easier to hide in the dark rather than to be seen in the light. And I was not alone. There were many I have met along the journey who were and are trapped in a similar Egypt; and many are not even living a destructive path. Many ordinary members of society experience the same Egypt. Being caught or convicted of a destructive act isn’t the definition of sin…it is the act and there are many who in word or deed still carry the stigma of wrong actions in their soul. Perhaps a judgmental attitude, a word spoken or action taken in anger, a responsibility neglected, an important date missed, and so on. Chains of guilt and shame don’t discriminate.

What can liberate us from the Egypt of our soul? I remember the first time I met the family of Matthew (The man whose life I took while caught up in drugs and criminal behavior). I was in a room and heard Betty, his mother, tell the story of her son’s life and how much they missed him. Each word they spoke pierced my soul. I heard of his kind spirit, loving heart, and I wanted to die. To know the value of Matthew and that I had taken him from his mother Betty, wife Tina, son Brandon, and brothers and sisters was overwhelming. I wanted to run and hide where I would never be seen. And then Betty looked me straight in the eyes and said, “We are Christian. To hate you would serve no purpose. We forgive you. We just don’t understand how you could have done this to our loved one and our family?” I was without words. Forgiveness? How? After all I had taken from them. And yet it had been genuinely spoken and opened a space in my heart and soul that the Creator poured into. At the time I was unsure of the future, but I knew I had to honor Matthews family and that was, and still is, at the core of my being. And it all began by taking ownership of my destructive past from a heartfelt place of repentance before our Creator and was grounded in a forgiveness I can never forget. The power of heartfelt repentance and forgiveness are the gift we all have to give as we approach the New Year. Who can we liberate from Egypt this new year?

In tears I end this in remembrance of Matthew and his Family, of the gift of repentance, of true redemption, of freedom. To the Creator be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.

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