• How to Forgive (when you have every right to hate)

    Date: 2013.03.28 | Category: Thoughts to ponder | Tags:

    (WARNING:  This blog is not about adoption, or fun with kids, or my love for my family.   If you are looking for a fun-filled blog post, you might just want to skip this one.   If however, you are looking for a blog about God’s infinite grace and forgiveness, this is the blog for you.  The first couple paragraphs talk about what happened to me in my childhood, but the rest talks about how I found peace.)

    If you just want to read this to see what horrible thing happened and see what sins I have committed, please just skip this now.  Judging is a sin and I’d hate to cause you to sin more.  If you truly want to know how I went through the worst time of my life and found a way to forgive, then please read the whole blog.  I know it is long.  I know it could be broken down into a couple of blogs, but the fact that I would rather throw up than drag this out any longer makes that impossible.  It’s sort of like pulling off the band-aid quickly.

    I have debated writing about the worst time of my life for quite some time.  I have had dreams where I wake up with the words “finish it” replaying over and over in my head. It is so ironic that I can be obedient in following God’s lead when He asks me to go get a very ill child in China, but ask me to say this to the world and I drag my feet.  I have been dragging my feet for quite a while now.  A couple of weeks ago, I read this post from Women of Faith and it got me to thinking about how many hurting people there are out there.

    The last couple of nights I have been awakened by the same dream.  The dream that tells me to finish this.  It makes me so angry.  I don’t want to finish it.  I don’t want to think about it.  I don’t want to put these words on paper for the world to see.   I’ve put it all behind me, but for some reason I feel as if to be completely done I need to finish this.  So here it is….

    I’ve talked about this subject with a few people.  I’ve tried to share it when I felt it might help someone else, but it will never be a thing that I can just state and not have it grip my heart and make me sick to my stomach.  I still have moments when I’d like to pretend it never happened.  The truth is I have tried my hardest to forget those moments in my life and for the most part God has graciously granted my request.  But the fact that it still has even a tiny hold on me, ticks me off, to say the least.  So I have chosen in this, my 48th year of life, to just put those words out there – to release the hold that these words have had on me.  Because the reality is people will judge you, people will think what they want, and in the end I can only do what I feel is right because everything in my life is between God and I, only He knows my true intentions.  So I share these words, and if by doing so, I help even one person, it will be worth what it took to write this (Or at least that is what I am telling myself right now as the tears fall down my face.).

    It took me years to admit what happened.  I felt dirty, like it was somehow my fault.  If I hear those words with anyone else, I don’t blame the victim.  So how is that even possible that I would feel like I should be to blame?  I was a child of 11.  It wasn’t until my daughter hit the age of 11, that I truly grasped what it meant to be a child of 11.  I may have looked like a grown-up, but I was a child, an easily manipulated, trusting, looking-for-love child.  A child robbed of my youth and my innocence.   To put it in words, is still, after 37 years, a horrible thing, it still brings me a smidge of shame, even though I know I’m not to blame.   Molestation is an ugly, ugly, UGLY word.  There are times when these things are done by strangers.  There are times when these are random acts of violence.  In my case, it was a trusted friend, a 29-year-old who had the trust of my family.  That plays with a little kid’s mind in ways that are hard to even imagine.  Add to that, threats of violence against your family; and great, grandiose gestures of love from a sick adult; and an 11 year old becomes one very confused, hurting child.

    I’ve not had counseling because it was felt that it would be better if everyone just put it behind us.  If you don’t talk about it, it’s like it never happened – that too plays with a child’s mind.  It wasn’t until 3 years after the horrible summer, when he came back and started dating my mother secretly, that everything came to light.  I hid most things for 3 years.  3 years of shame.   3 years of pain and anguish.  3 years of hoping that someone could see how much I was hurting.  But 3 years had changed a lot, at 14 I was much braver, much smarter, and ready to fight.  But I didn’t fight, instead….I ran away.  I didn’t run far, just to my dad’s house about 15 miles away.  My mom and dad had divorced when I was 10 and my dad lived with my stepmom in another town.  This act of finally admitting what happened started World War 3 between my parents.  Everything I had feared had started.  People were angry and it felt like they were angry at me.

    I write about this not to talk about “him” so much, but to talk about what it took for me to heal.  First and foremost, it took lots of love from Dan, lots of forgiveness from myself, and finally accepting God’s grace.  I made Dan prove his love over and over again in the early years of our marriage.  I had trouble feeling like I deserved love, especially such over-whelming wonderful love, from him.  One day, Dan finally looked at me and said, “You can continually make me prove my love or you can trust me to love you like I said I would.  You can spend each and every day in pain assuming that I will leave you or you can be happy each and every day with me.  Then, if I ever am stupid enough to leave you, the best thing that ever happened to me , you can be angry with me at that time, but don’t waste our lives by assuming it will one day happen.”  He’s a very smart man.  He was right.  I needed to learn how to trust, forgive, and let go.

    It’s hard when the father figures or male figures in your life are distant.  I didn’t really have a male figure that said “I love you” or showed love.  My brothers liked to tease me about being ugly and fat as brothers do.  My dad was gone at the age of 10 and very distant at the beginning.  My dad is a much different man now and is always there for my kids and me.  My grandfathers were standoffish and seemed somewhat cold and distant.  Men who were born 90 years ago, well, that was a different time.  They weren’t bad men, they just weren’t the overly affectionate type of guys.  I understood a God of discipline and punishment because I had heard that over and over again, but I had a hard time with the concept of God being a loving father.  Dan taught me about God’s grace.   How I grew up in church all those years and never, ever, understood God’s grace is beyond me.  Dan taught me about God’s forgiveness for our sins.  Dan taught me about turning it all over to God.  All those things led to my healing.  When I truly accepted God’s forgiveness, I was able to forgive myself.

    Another thing that Dan taught me was God is good and perfect, but man is evil.  It’s hard when you believe that God is in control of everything and something bad happens to you.  People blame God when bad things happen.  You are left to question why God would allow something to happen to you.  The truth of the matter is God gave man free will.  Man is evil not God.  Could God stop it? Yes.  But if God intervened in everything we would live in a perfect world and we would all be robots.  God gave us free will.  Bad things happen because of man not because of God.

    The second thing that helped me heal was realizing that this man was supposedly a believer.  It was a smack up along side my head when I realized that Christ paid for his sins just like Christ paid for mine.  We like to believe that there are really, really bad sins and then the nice little sins that we do that don’t really amount to anything.   Ha!  Sin is sin.  Yes, some of them are overwhelmingly evil, but sin, in the end, is still sin.   Gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, lust, anger, and greed are called the 7 deadly sins for a reason.  We don’t get to pretend that we are somehow better than others.  In the end, the only thing that saves us is God’s grace.

    At the Women of Faith Conference I was at, an artist drew it as a chasm.  God is on one side and you are on the other.

    We think our goodness takes us part way to God and God brings us the rest of the way.  The truth is there is nothing we can do to reach God.  We are all sinners.  Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…    We can not do good things to make up for our sin.  Ephesians 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…    We can only confess our sin and move on.    1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   If we continually feel guilty about the same sin, it is as if we are saying “I don’t believe what you have said, God.”.    It became an either I believed His word or I didn’t.  If I trust that Christ died on the cross for my sins, how could I not trust Him for His forgiveness?  1 Peter 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…   I don’t understand why it happened to me, but I could believe that God could use it for good.  Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    The third thing that helped me heal, was allowing God to punish him.  I could be bitter and angry, but that wasn’t doing anything to him.  He didn’t know the pain I was in.  To be honest, my only regret is that he may have done it to others.  It was three years before everything came out.  I wish I would have been strong enough to prosecute him.  The truth of the matter is 37 years ago it wasn’t like it is now.  It was your word against his and people just didn’t do that.  Things were swept under the rug and no one was encouraging me to do anything but forget.   Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

    And the final thing that helped me heal was a big one, I started to pray for “him”.  Yes, him.  Matthew 5:44  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.   You can’t hate when you are praying for someone.  At the beginning, my prayers were still hate-filled, but it is amazing what happens to your heart as you pray for someone who has hurt you.  Now when something reminds me of that horrible time, because there are triggers that still pop up from time to time, I pray.  The first thing I do is pray.  I pray that he hasn’t hurt anyone else.  I pray that he has found healing.  I pray that God has opened his eyes to what he has done.  I pray that and many, many more things but my prayers always bring me peace.  My prayers for him led to forgiveness, of both him and I, and it led to the end of my bitterness so that I could live a happier live.

    I recently read a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  This is a quote from the end of her book.  “There are many who struggle to survive in life, many who have been used and abused in the name of love, many who have been sacrificed on the altars of pleasure and “freedom”.  But the freedom the world offers is, in reality, false.  Too many have awakened one day to discover they are in bondage, and they have no idea how to escape.  It is for people such as these that I wrote Redeeming Love – people who fight, as I did, to be their own gods, only to find in the end that they are lost, desperate, and terribly alone.  I want to bring the truth to those trapped in lies and darkness, to tell them that God is there, He is real, and He loves them – no matter what.”

    Part of the guilt I felt was for the few years when I acted out.  I did things and said things that I am not proud of.  I have forgiven myself for those things, but the truth is we can never know all the people who we hurt along the way.  I have prayed that God would let those people find peace, as I have.  I write these things not to get sympathy.  I write them to let you know there is a way to climb out of the darkness and the self-induced misery that we are in.  Bad things happen, but God can heal.  Let Him heal you.  Feel His grace and forgiveness and start living your life for Him.  It is a life of purpose and meaning and it is just waiting for you to let go of the trappings of this world and become who He made you to be.

    John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    My prayer for you is that you can forgive.  Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.  I pray that you can find your meaning and your purpose.  Allow God to truly lead you and the blessings and peace that will overcome your heart will be amazing.  Bitterness and anger only hurt you and those around you.  You aren’t punishing the person who hurt you.  In the end, you are punishing yourself.  Accept that your sins are forgiven and forgive yourself first and foremost.  May God grant you peace that goes beyond understanding.  You are worthy of His love because He is love.  We are saved by His grace.  There is nothing we can do to look better in His eyes so let it go and allow God’s love to hold you close.  You are forgiven.  You are loved.  You are precious in His sight.  Right now.  Right at this moment.  You don’t have to fix your life to come to God.  You don’t have to be better.  You just have to trust in His forgiveness and move on, following His lead.  What are you waiting for?  Today is a beautiful day to learn to love yourself and allow God’s love to surround you.  I will continue to pray for you and your peace and for forgiveness to become part of your language.  I will pray for your strength to move on and to forgive.  May God’s love surround you today and every day.