But God turns his face

Psalm 34:15-16 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth.

As I unpacked my suitcase and began tackling the weeds that grew up while we were gone to our extended family reunion (44 people, if I counted right, out of 67 if everyone had been able to come), I tried to make sense out of these verses. They give me hope in various directions—what’s happening in Venezuela and in our own country, for example. I grieve, and weep, yet I have hope that those who do evil will be held accountable by God, and that our Lord is amazingly able to help and stand with those who are suffering injustice and oppression, as tough and painful and impossible as situations do become.

On the other hand, is it really a good idea for the Lord to erase from the earth the memory of those who do evil? Isn’t it a good thing to remember, and see the consequences of their acts, so that we can choose differently for ourselves?

With many tears, I’m reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Since I didn’t grow up in this country, I’m trying to educate myself on its history. Appalling as it is, I need to try to understand the heritage of my neighbors. Otherwise, how can I understand them? I may hurt them out of ignorance, without even realizing I’m doing so. If ignorance of the law is no excuse, how much more is there no excuse for not trying to understand those among whom we live here, not just “overseas,” the places we go with the desire to bring blessing and healing to people of other cultures and nations.

The organizing team chose the theme of “legacy” for our family reunion. Our oldest sister shared with us a genogram of the five generations of our family she has known. She recounted a brief outline of our family history, which includes a great deal of evil and consequences of that evil which have stretched down through the generations. Some of our children (we call our generation the “Gr8~8 sibs and spouses,” and our kids the “cousin generation) knew very little of this story. For some, it gave a framework for understanding family dynamics which had been confusing to them.

The marvelous thing, though, is that our history was told within a context of hope. Our sister recounted the healing path God has provided for the eight of us sibs, and all but one of the eight were able to be there and to add our own comments and perspectives as we wished. The overall tone was of wonder and gratitude to God for what he has done, and the benefits that our healing passes on to the next generations. God’s grace is all over this story!

So here’s what I’m thinking (provisionally!) at this moment about God erasing the memory of evildoers from the earth. When we don’t need to remember anymore—when our healing is complete—those memories of pain and wounding will fade away into the joy of the abundant life God intends for us. Maybe that will be our experience only in Heaven. Meanwhile, there are maybe three (at least) ways of remembering. One is with bitterness and anger, the expression of what is killing us inside. This can be done with vengeance, hurting others as we have been hurt, or with the goal of cleansing it from our hearts. Our REVER (emotional healing) ministries are all about that. This kind of remembering—when the wounding is still raw and powerful inside us—is marked by desperation and a profound need for liberation from emotional bondage. When we’re able to leave vengeance in God’s hands, he can take us to healing. His ears are open to our cry for help.

A second way of remembering is to learn from and not repeat the past (easier said than done!). This is often marked by a strong desire to change history, to be different and to make a difference. And by humility and insecurity, as we realize we can only do that in dependence on God.

A third way of remembering is all about wonder and awe, praising God for what he has done for us, freeing us as only he can from the natural negative consequences of what has hurt us. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together (Psalm 34:3).

This journey is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Hold on to the hope!

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