What I’ve Learned About Forgiveness
woman praying

What I’ve Learned About Forgiveness

Photo by Mariah Hewines on Unsplash

Forgiveness. Sometimes its easy, sometimes its hard. Sometimes its an obvious choice. Other times it makes No Sense At All. Let’s look at a couple scenarios from my life.

When I was very young I carried a lot of frustration and hurt. I had a little brown teddy bear with a hard plastic nose.  I loved that bear. He was my constant friend. He was my comfort. He was my avenger. That hard plastic nose when applied in a rapid pecking motion on top of my older siblings head was an effective expression of my rage. Especially delivered from a position of stealth. Teddy and I would quietly sneak up behind the offending sibling and ever so quietly rise up and…… peck peck peck peck peck!!! And the chase was on!

My mother finally had enough and forced me to apologize. I didn’t want to. I saw no reason to. I felt completely justified in my actions.  I wanted the jury of my parents to hear my case and acquit me by reason of justified pecking.  I was outraged that I had to apologize and my mean bully of a sibling got to go free. No investigation. Just say sorry and stop making trouble. Even at five years old that made no sense to me. But I saw the futility of my resistance and apologized. Not nicely, and certainly not sincerely, but I said the words just the same through gritted teeth.

At six years old I was hungry for attention and approval. There was a kindly older man at church that made me feel like I was the only little girl in the world when he looked at me and smiled. He would always stop to talk to me, bypassing everyone else. He would pinch my cheek and tickle my neck and make me giggle. I felt significant in those moments.

One Sunday morning he asked my parents permission for me to go home with him and his wife for the afternoon, promising to take good care of me and deliver me back to church for the evening service. As I was the youngest of 9 children and he was a respected deacon in the church, that was an easy yes.

That afternoon my life changed forever. I buried it deep. Every time the memory of my molestation came back to me I went to my room and clutched my little brown teddy bear and rocked myself in the corner, chanting it didn’t happen it didn’t happen it didn’t happen. I began to spend more and more time alone in my room. It was my only safe place.  That became my primary coping skill. I couldn’t do anything about what was happening to me, but I could withdraw. Sometimes I couldn’t get to my room. I learned to withdraw into myself when I needed to. Eventually the memory receded deep within and it didn’t come back to haunt me anymore.

We all know hurts like that can’t stay buried forever.

It popped up again about a year after I was married. It was a tsunami of devastating debilitating hurt. It wasn’t going to go away. I was forced to deal with it.

This man was still alive and still in the same church. I met with the pastor at the time and warned him that this man, however old and impaired he may appear, was still a threat. He was skilled at using his age and implied infirmities to mask his sick agenda. The pastor vowed to me that he would keep a watchful eye on the young ones in the church and be sure they stayed clear of this man. And if he witnessed any suspicious behaviour from this man he would confront him and report it immediately.

I was told my healing could only begin when I forgave the man who molested me.

The rage that had been buried right alongside those dark memories emerged full force. I was only SIX! I was taught God loved me. I was taught the song Jesus Loves Me This I Know. Well I didn’t know that anymore.

How does a loving God stand by, watching the molestation of one of His precious little ones, and not strike that SOB dead??

Oh – I get it now.

He cared about all the other little ones more than me. God got stuck loving me because He promised to love the whole world. He had no choice. Just like my family got stuck with me but never wanted me. They had no choice. Tell me again why I need to forgive any of them. The man who molested me, the mother who didn’t want me, the family and church that didn’t protect and defend me.

The rage didn’t serve me well. It infiltrated every area of my life. Resentment and bitterness grew fast and thick in my soul. I was choking on them, yet nurturing the very things that were killing me. Desperation to be free drove me to the altar.

I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to. I saw no reason to forgive. I was completely justified as the victim of a predator who had complete power and authority over me. “Yes my child” God said. “All these things are true. And he is accountable to me for that. Believe me I will hold him accountable and he will receive what waits for him. But I have asked you to forgive others as I have forgiven you. That includes him. Only then can I begin to heal you. I have SO MUCH HEALING waiting for you. You don’t have to feel like it. You just need to obey and forgive.”

I said the words through gritted teeth and streaming tears. My obedience pried the death grip of resentment and bitterness away from the throat of my soul. It has been a very long journey to complete freedom – too long to share here. It involved a great deal of skilled professional help. But every step of obedience gave me another layer of healing.

God didn’t need me to feel like it. He didn’t require me me to understand or even agree with His methods. There are so many times I have ranted and raged at God for His methods. He’s a big God and He can take it. Even more, He WANTS to take it. And He has become my constant friend. My comfort. My avenger. And I can tell you that God does a much more effective job of avenging my hurts than my little brown teddy bear ever did.

I don’t know your story. But if you hurt, PLEASE SEEK HEALING!!

Maybe you need to obey God’s requirement of forgiveness. Maybe you need to reach out to a skilled professional who can guide you through unpacking your baggage. I highly recommend you consider both.

Even more, I want you to know something. You are wanted by God even if you are not wanted by others.

You are significant. You are precious. You were created with intention and purpose. And everything evil and hurtful that has ever happened to you can be healed. And beyond the healing, you can be a lifeline for someone else drowning in their hurt.

There is hope.

There is healing.

There is joy.

God offers redemption of our souls, and redemption of our hurts. Take the risk.

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