Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. – Psalm 32:1 (MSG)
We have all heard the adage, “Forgive and forget.” And it’s likely we have all heard (and we might have said ourselves a time or two), “I will forgive but never forget.”
It truly is hard to forget a harm done, a hurt caused, a promise broken. Even after and if a relationship seems to have been restored, the memories and scars do not fully disappear.
Forgiving but holding on, recalling the injury over and over with no intent of truly moving forward in reconciliation, is not restorative. It takes work and the desire to be in right relationship to not allow someone’s past mistakes to get in the way of our healing and the possibilities that come with it.
The justice system in this country has found a way to legislate “never forgetting.” Policies have been put in place that continue to punish those coming out of prison even after they have done their time and paid their restitution. For example, families receiving housing support are not allowed to have someone with a record to live in the home, keeping some families broken. Employers continue to discriminate against those with a background; training and skills received while in prison are often not considered. Lending institutions remain inaccessible for entrepreneurial projects that could lift an individual and their families out of poverty.
The psalmist reminds us today of the significance of having “your slate wiped clean.” Of getting a fresh start. Letting go of the past. Learning and growing from our mistakes. Freely and joyfully moving towards God’s promise.
As the church we are called to “set the captives free” (Luke 4:18). We can do this by calling on our legislatures to support automatic expungement upon release and resources to support returning citizens and their communities.
God, we are so grateful that each day is brand new. Thank you for forgiveness and love. In gratitude we work to ensure all know this love and forgiveness is theirs, too. Amen.
Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor to The Words of Her Mouth.