Many years ago, God taught my husband and I a really valuable lesson about forgiveness. Through this lesson we experienced the substance and reality that is released when forgiveness is exercised.
Back in May of 2003, my husband and I attended the Northern California TheCall in San Francisco with some friends. (For those who would like to know more about TheCall, click on the link.) We had been there for most of the day when my husband realized he was missing his art bag he had packed to bring with him. We returned to our parked car to get it only to discover that the car had been broken into and the bag that my husband had unwittingly left in the back floor board had been stolen.
Having that particular bag stolen wouldn’t have been such a big deal except that on this one day he had put his wallet with ALL his banking and credit cards, his checkbook, his new passport and all the very important, personal paperwork we had assembled for our move abroad, which was scheduled a few days after TheCall. This was a really big bummer! Not only did this threaten our financial security at the time, but it threatened to interrupt our moving plans. We had already given away most everything we owned and had moved out of our home. We were packed and ready to go. We didn’t have the months it would take to reissue a new passport and replace the other items. What were we going to do?
We walked back to the stadium to our friends and told them what had happened. I was in a panic. I remember being so angry and frustrated, first at my husband for his carelessness, but especially at the person or people who had perpetrated the crime against us. We asked our friends to pray with us to ask God what we should do. There were about six of us standing in a circle together asking God for a miracle. I began to pray out, first from my frustration, but very quickly I began to sense God’s heart in the matter. I realized in that moment I needed to forgive the people who had done this to us, or nothing that I prayed would have any consequence. I actually didn’t want to forgive them, they were causing us so much trouble, but I asked God to help me forgive them, and then, as I prayed my heart was turned to really and truly forgive. As I declared forgiveness out loud with my mouth, my heart came into alignment with God’s heart in the matter. But then, I began to pray in a way I had never done before.
In that moment I remembered the scene from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in which the Bishop of Digne, M. Myriel, forgives Jean Valjean. Valjean had stolen a silver table service from the Bishop’s home. In his flight from the Bishop’s home he is apprehended by the police and drug back to the Parish residence. The police want the word of the Bishop to confirm what they suspect so they can condemn Valjean for his thievery. However, the Bishop does something wonderful, he not only forgives Valjean his trespass, but he created an alternate story of the incident which completely releases Valjean from the indictment against him. M. Myriel foists upon Valjean the silver candlesticks which he had left behind in his haste, reprimanding him for forgetting them and then declaring to him that he had bought his soul with that silver. M. Myriel says to Valjean, ““Do not forget, ever, that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man…you no longer belong to evil but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”
With that wonderful story in my mind and the revelation of the power that is found in true genuine forgiveness I prayed absolute release over the people who had stolen from us. They could not physically hear my prayer, but they had become tied to us through a debt they now owed us because of their thievery. In that moment I realized they belonged to me and that I could demand retribution upon them, could insist upon the judgment that was due them, or I could do something even more powerful than simply insisting upon what the law required. I could release them from their obligation to me, giving the debt to God and asking for their salvation in payment for the debt. I prayed, “These people owe us a debt. They took something of ours, something very valuable to us. I do not demand their condemnation, instead God, I forgive them and I release them to You. With this debt I buy back their souls from evil and give them to You. Go find them God. Go save them God. Make the things they have stolen from us like hot coals in their hands. Let conviction burn in their hearts.” With this prayer came an absolute release in my own heart and the assurance that God was on the job and that, somehow, everything was going to work out.
With an hour my husband got a phone call on his cell from the San Francisco police department asking if he was Scott Husted and was he missing some important papers, checkbook, passport, credit cards, etc. He confirmed to the officer that he was and did, and so we quickly made our way to the station. Once we were there, the police explained to us that in all the years on the force they had not once ever witnessed the return of goods from a stolen bag. They said that hundreds of bags are stolen every day around the city and never has there been anything recovered from those thefts. NOT ONCE. They said that a kid had come into the station with the contents of my husband’s bag, having found them discarded on a stoop. The bag, the cash and the art supplies were still missing, but everything that really mattered was returned to us. We told the police officers how we had prayed. They thought we were a little crazy, but couldn’t deny that something of a miracle had taken place. We left that police station in awe, not only that we had received back everything we needed to move forward with our plans, but we had this deep assurance that somewhere in San Francisco someone or someones were being drawn into the kingdom of God by our choice to absolutely forgive them.
The Bible says that our warfare in this world is not against flesh and blood. We are not at war with each other. There are forces of darkness that seek to blind us to the truth and keep us from experiencing the freedom Jesus won. We can bind each other in that darkness or we can free each other from that darkness. Forgiveness sets free and wins the victory in our lives. I have continued over the years to pray in this way, to absolutely and completely release forgiveness for the debts others have owed to me. I have seen some pretty incredible things happen in the lives of my friends and family directly as a result.
Today, I am grateful to God for the amazing power that is found in forgiveness. Today I am thankful that forgiveness is for real!