Glen Campbell is one of those rare entertainers who has left his mark on a generation – my generation. For fifty years, the 75-year old singer/guitarist has produced a string of hits including “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and many others. In his later, more obscure albums, his voice is deeper, richer. He and his voice were maturing. But maturity often comes with a price – in Campbell’s case, Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed with it last June.
Reflecting on his turbulent life – drugs, drink, four wives, eight children and much fame and fortune – Campbell has recorded his last album: Ghost on the Canvas. One song is called “A Better Place.” It includes the following poignant lyrics:
Some days I’m so confused Lord
My past gets in my way
I need the ones I love, Lord,
More and more each day.
We all have to live with the toxic residues of our pasts. Our sins find us out. The people we’ve wounded may live or die with those wounds. We cannot undo the damage we’ve done anymore than we can get the toothpaste back into the tube. What’s done is done. We, and our victims, have to find ways of living with it. We can only pray that those we’ve hurt can find ways of forgiving and forgetting. If we’ve repented of our sins, and those who have been hurt by them have not forgiven us, then perhaps the onus is now on them to forgive. An unforgiving spirit and a desire to exact revenge are not exactly godly states of mind.
We’ve all hurt someone – parents, wives, husbands, children, siblings, teachers, friends, employers, employees. The trail of our victims may be longer than we had imagined. And, as Campbell sings, “The past gets in my way.” It’s hard to live joyfully in the present when the baggage of the past keeps encroaching on our path.
The Healing Power of Forgiveness
Forgiving those who have hurt us is one the hardest things to do, but forgive we must. Unforgiveness can destroy us. It can lead to bitterness and resentment. The hatred it engenders can lead to a life of endless revenge-seeking. The state of the person sinned against can become worse than that of the sinner.
If we want God to forgive us, we must be willing to forgive other sinners (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiving lifts a burden from both the sinner and the victim of the sin. Forgiveness is what God is all about. Love does not expose other’s sins, it covers them (Proverbs 10:12). Note also Proverbs 17:9: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but he who repeats the matter separates close friends.”
Suppose you accidentally ran across a close friend of yours and found him to be falling down drunk in a strange neighborhood. What’s the right thing to do? Ignore his plight and tell everyone about it the next morning? Or help him sober up and keep the matter quiet? You figure it out.
The next line in Campbell’s song is, “I need the ones I love Lord, more and more each day.” No matter how much we’ve sinned, who we’ve hurt, and how much damage we’ve done, there will always be someone who forgives and loves us. Such people are precious indeed! As Glen Campbell’s wonderfully creative brain succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease, the people who love him become more and more important to him – his wife, his children and his friends.
We love those who love, and forgive, us. They know that they too need forgiveness. We hope that all of our sins are eventually drowned in God’s vast Sea of Forgetfulness. Glen Campbell, a great entertainer who blessed our generation with his songs, is passing incrementally out of this life into the next. When the light finally flickers out, may God receive his spirit into everlasting habitations.