“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

            My dog and I enjoy a walk most mornings in our city park on trails that run parallel to Camp Creek and meander through lush tree-shaded paths. While I strive to move enough to get my heart rate up and burn a few calories, Zoe stops every few feet to explore new sights and enjoy new smells, reminding me that walking is all about experiencing the moment. And as I slow down and drink in the beauty of creation, God often speaks.

            This morning I noticed a leaf stain on the path. It’s early June. It’s not autumn when you’d expect to see leaves scattered over the ground painting the path with their silhouettes before the winds blow them away. I wondered, when had the leaf fallen? How long had the stain been there? Days? Weeks? Months? How much longer would the stain be visible?

            I’d probably never know the answers. The only thing I could know for certain was the stain marked the path because it was hidden from the sunlight and rain. And that’s when God spoke. “What stains are hiding in your heart?”

            How often do we store up wrongs and injustices others commit against us? How often do we let the stains of our pasts be shaded by darkness rather than expose them to the Light? How often do we fail to give them to the only One who can truly remove them and cleanse our hearts? We may think we’ve forgiven someone only to realize we’ve hidden the offense away rather than bringing it out into the open.

            In No Longer a Captive, Ethne and Daniel both struggle with forgiving family members who’ve hurt them. Ethne’s forgiveness is conditional—she is willing to forgive only if the person changes. But Daniel knows true freedom to forgive can come from only one place and realizes her inability or unwillingness to forgive has stolen her freedom, making her a captive to her past.

            Christ directs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. To go above and beyond the law—seventy times seven. True forgiveness demands sacrifice on our part—not only feelings, but actions—and so changes us.

            Don’t let past hurts stain your heart.

            Just as the leaf stain must be exposed to the sunlight to be cleansed away, so must our spiritual stains be offered to God for us to be able to experience, and give, true forgiveness.

            So, a big thank you to Zoe for slowing me down to see the message in the leaf stain.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Isaiah 1:18

From author Carol James

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