I am not sure who wrote it, but I read this old story called “Learn to Write in the Sand” online somewhere. It kind of bugged me and just left a weird taste in my mouth, so to speak.
To be honest, it took me a while to digest and accept the homily of this tale:
The story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. At a specific point in the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without anything to say, he wrote in the sand: “Today, my best friend slapped me in the face.”
They kept on walking until they found an oasis where they decided to take a refreshing swim. The one who had been slapped started drowning, and the other friend saved him. When he recovered from the fright, he wrote on a stone: “Today, my best friend saved my life.”
The friend who saved and slapped his best friend, asked him, “Why, after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you write on a stone?”
The other friend, smiling, replied: “When a friend hurts us, we should write it down in the sand where the winds of forgiveness get charge of erasing it away, and when something great happens, we should engrave it in the stone of the memory of the heart, where no wind can erase it.”
Maybe, the harsh imagery of a slap was too much for me. Or maybe, a drowning seemed drastic in comparison to a slap. I’m not sure.
But for some reason, I could not find the point of this story until I pondered it for quite a while. I know that might sound strange because I can honestly say that I want to be the kind of person who is quick to forgive the wrongs of others, while always remembering their deeds of kindness.
I am also so very grateful that God has a deep, deep Sea of Forgetfulness where He casts the sins for which I sought (and willingly received) His forgiveness. I cannot thank Him enough for His grace and mercy.
I would venture to say that most Christians feel the same. We are usually willing (sooner or later) to forgive those who have trespassed against us, but most of us will always remember the hurt and pain we endured from that trespass.
Isn’t it humanly impossible to totally forget those wrongs?
And if we are totally honest, would we forget those hurts even if we humanly could? I mean, we kind of prefer holding on to those memories. We push them way down deep inside and reserve them – just in case we need them another day for justification and proof of our holiness.
Or maybe, we simply prefer the victimhood of not forgetting, so we do not even pretend to forget. We hold our past hurt up in front of us and wave it around like a John 3:16 banner on Super Bowl Sunday. We want the world to know that we were wronged.
In both instances, we feel justified because we did forgive; we just did not forget. And that brings me right back to the lesson of writing in the sand.
As I stated earlier, it took me a while to study and ponder this story to understand why it bugged me so badly. But it finally hit me.
A proverbial slap in the face is probably the harshest emotional sting there is. It is embarrassing and hurtful, an open and witnessed wound to our pride and our heart, especially a slap from a friend. And it is an invasion of our most personal space – our face.
So, the truth is, when someone we love deeply does such a thing as slapping us in the face, it is hard enough to forgive them. How could we ever forget such a hurt? And furthermore, why would we want to? Why would we dare to pray for that stinging pain to be so easily blown away – like sand blown away in the wind of forgiveness?
Let me tell you why! Because He is that wind.
In fact, Acts 2:2 described His Holy Spirit with these words: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”
And Romans 5:5 promises us His Spirit-filled hope that “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Through the work of His Spirit, I believe God wants to do more than heal the pain of our past hurts. He wants to move us beyond self-pity – and even beyond self-righteousness. He wants to give us the hope of complete healing and wholeness, a hope found only in Him.
But it might take a little windstorm to get the job done. He may have to dredge up and forever remove those tightly held hurts in order to replace them with His peace that passes understanding.
This means we may have to let go of the death grip we have on those hurts.
Yes, we were wronged and sinned against. Yes, it hurt horribly, and it may have even left some deep scars. But the Bible reminds us that if we are to accept His forgiveness, then we must forgive also – even the hardest, coldest, most publicly humiliating slap in the face.
Keep in mind that Jesus was not only slapped multiple times (John 18:22; John 19:1), but He was mocked, beaten, bruised, pierced, and laden with every sin you and I ever committed. And what did the sinless, perfect Son of God do in return?
He loved us so much that He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
In one eternal moment, Jesus let the wind of His precious forgiveness blow away the atrocity of His crucifixion. He was forever teaching us how to write in the sand. And if the truth of His forgiveness does not slap us in our sinful faces, nothing ever will.
So, maybe it’s time to pray, “Bring on Your wind, dear God!”