When artist Gary Sweeney decided to sell the home his family had owned for seventy years, he created a unique way of saying goodbye. Sweeney selected and enlarged one hundred family photos, placing them on pieces of plywood. He attached the plywood to the home’s exterior—covering the entire structure in memories.
Experiences with our parents and siblings stay with us for life. Good or bad, memories pry into our lives with invisible fingers, influencing our self-image, decisions, and emotions.
When Joseph was seventeen years old, his brothers sold him as a slave to a group of traders headed to Egypt. Many years later when he encountered his brothers again, Joseph “broke down and wept” (Genesis 45:2). Despite the emotions, Joseph didn’t allow hurtful memories to affect his relationship with his brothers. He acknowledged the past, but didn’t make them feel guilty for what they’d done. He said, “Don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me . . . . It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives” (Genesis 45:5). God had given Joseph great success in Egypt and as a result he was able to save his brothers and their families during a severe famine.
Joseph could have allowed himself to become bitter and hateful. He could have taken revenge by denying help to his family. Although nothing could change how his brothers had hurt him, Joseph’s decision to treat them with kindness released him from the misery of the past.
We may not be able to change our past, but we don’t have to let it determine our future. God is able to redeem the bad intentions of other people (Genesis 50:20). By His grace, we can choose to bless people who’ve hurt us—finding healing through forgiveness.
Next: How can experiencing God’s forgiveness for our sin help us to extend grace to others? Why do you think God wants us to “[forget] the past and [look] forward to what lies ahead”? (Philippians 3:13).