There’s a poignant moment in Forrest Gump between Forrest and his lifelong love interest, Jenny.
Jenny was the victim of childhood abuse and is eventually removed from her family home altogether, for her protection. Jenny takes a destructive course of her own, flirting with life and death, but finally comes back to visit Forrest – to his elation. They’re walking one afternoon when they happen upon the home of her childhood; a place of ugly memories and great hurt. Seeing it, she grabs a rock and hurls it at the house, shattering one of its windows. She finds another, then another, heaving them at the lifeless, abandoned, decrepit thing. After three or four, she runs out of ammunition and Tom Hanks’ narratorial voice adds: “sometimes there’s just not enough rocks”.
Hurt people, hurt people. Hurt people, hurt people even when the areas wherein they inflict their hurt are not the areas wherein they have been hurt! (Figure out that sentence!).
For some, a hurt can reverberate for a lifetime; shrinking their world, assassinating a character, poisoning a soul.
One thing about hurt is that it’s unarguable. You cannot tell me that something did not hurt me. You can tell me that it wasn’t a reasonable reaction to a circumstance; you can tell me that it was a hasty assumption, and you can tell me I need to grow up and get on with it, but you cannot tell me that something didn’t hurt. That’s my call.
The Sunday before last, we finished the second part of our message on ‘Getting past your past’ by talking about moving past your hurts. Sitting here now in solitude writing about it, it suddenly feels morose and overly introspective, so let me say that all again. Last Sunday, we talked about Jesus’ actions towards us and how those actions are greater and stronger and higher than any hurt we have faced, or will ever face. That’s more like it.
It sucks to be hurt. It can be debilitating and paralysing.
Physical pain is like that; it stops or inhibits function. If you’ve ever suffered acute pain (a broken limb, a bullet in the leg), you know that physical pain will stop you doing specific things in the shorter term. If you’ve suffered chronic pain, you will know the ways in which your pain begins to restrict your options to remove some areas of function off the table altogether. They gradually cease to become possibilities and, in time, if the pain extends long enough, we don’t even consider the some things a possibility at all. We simply stop considering function in those areas.
Emotional and spiritual pain and hurt is little different. If the hurt is acute, you may move on in time. Time heals, and all that. If the emotional hurt is chronic, you may lose function in that area seemingly forever. That needn’t be true, but it can sure seem that way.
If you’ve been deeply wounded and carry the scars of that wounding, the safest places to live may be in the veneer of life. Doubtful the most joyful or satisfying, but the safest.
In time, we forget that there was ever function intended for us and the dysfunction becomes so commonplace that it’s our new normal. We know no different.
Some of us carry around with us some brutal hurts. Stuff that is unconscionable, damaging and seemingly un-healable.
While it is the better word that Jesus declares about us that enables us to change the acquired narrative we declare over ourselves, it is the ‘better actions’ by Jesus towards us that enables us to move beyond our hurts. It doesn’t make light of our hurt, but because his demonstrated love (through His life and death, and His victory over sin and death) enables us to enter a story that is greater than our hurt.
When’s God action towards you in Jesus is placed on the other side of the scales to the hurt against you by others, the scales get smashed.
Of course, you can know this, but you can still choose to bunker down in your own prison. While confined, it’s safe there. In that place, you can fortress yourself from the world, nourish your hurt (which is easily done, it’s often justifiable) and, in time, allow it to become a bigger monster than it ever was.
Or there is another way. You can choose to live in a place of redemption. You can choose to see God’s redeeming work in the driest and most barren places, and witness him bringing springs of living water in the harshest deserts.
The key that unlocks that door is forgiveness. If that sounds easy, perhaps you haven’t been there. Forgiveness can be really hard.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you finally reach a place where you think what happened to you was ok; it doesn’t mean your pain has gone; it doesn’t mean you’re ok, and they’re ok; it doesn’t mean you forget, and it doesn’t mean you’re reconciled. Of course, it may mean any or all of those things, but not necessarily.
What forgiveness does mean is that you give up the right to get back at the other person. You give up your perceived right to hurt the other person (either explicitly by direct action, or implicitly through a thousand other ways).
Why forgive? It sets you free, and it sets the other person free.
Why would you want to do that? Because forgiveness has been extended to you. Because you win in that exchange. Because God did not spare his only Son but gave himself up for us all (Romans 8:32). Because we pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. And because forgiven people forgive people. To truly receive forgiveness is not only to be forgiven but to be a forgiver.
Our past hurts are no match for God’s grace.
My wise sister has often remind me that when I feel stung or angered by the words or actions of another, it’s worth pausing to consider what’s informing my reaction. What does that say about me? What character trait does it resonate with or oppose to trigger that particular reaction? The very things that we react to with such vehemence can often be those we see in ourselves. It’s one of the reasons that we’re so quick to recognise the flaw/sting/objectionable idiosyncrasy in another; we know it all too well.
Dealing with this stuff? It’s not a solo effort. Emphatically, it is a one-man job; Jesus has done that job and presents a limitless supply of grace to cleanse and heal you from hurt though the power of His Holy Sprit. On another level, the hands and feet through which Jesus works out a decisive measure of that healing is His Bride: the Church.
Because of God’s idea of His bride, the Church, you don’t and shouldn’t have to shoulder all this stuff on your own. We walk beside. We carry one another’s burdens. We encourage each other to run with endurance. And, joyfully, we get to play a God-shaped role in the broken being mended and light being shone in the dark nights of the soul.
Towards the tail-end of Forrest Gump, Jenny dies. It’s sad. The funeral is moving. What is more moving is the gravestone memorial that Forrest places under the tree where they shared so much of their childhood. And he does one other thing. He demolishes the home of her childhood – forever gone.
I like to think of this as a glimpse of what Jesus does with the hurts of our past when compared to what He is crafting in us. He demolishes them.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Thanks for listening.