The Power of Forgiveness
Forgiveness has been something that I have struggled with all of my life. From the time I was born, I was being physically and sexually abused by my family and at the Mormon Church. I grew up feeling worthless and abandoned; constantly lied to and betrayed. I was beaten down for having gifts from God to see and talk to Him, and was taught that I was generally stupid and altogether evil. All these things shaped the core of who I was. Instead of growing into a tender young girl who loved the Lord, and wanted to help and serve others, I became devoid of love, focusing instead on hate.
Hate is a power that has driven me for most of my life. Hate, so I was told, was going to protect me, like a weapon or a coat of armor. It was going to drive away all of the evil, because self hatred would keep me in constant self flagellation. I could drive the evil out of my self, and keep the evil of others away, if I would just use the powers of hate.
I was only a little girl as these penetrating lessons were taught to me. As hard as I tried to cling on to what I knew of Jesus, it was ripped away from me, step by step, until I could no longer bear to even hear His name. Jesus name became a swear word to me, because His name now represented hate, anger, and pain to me. Jesus not only abandoned me, but took part in my abuse, as men would dress in His likeness and tell me they were Him.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
As I grew, my life constantly reinforced these beliefs of hate. The rejection and abandonment I felt in my own home was enough to leave me feeling utterly hopeless. I turned to attempts of suicide and later, drugs and alcohol, to try to numb the pain that swelled within me. Nothing could truly take away that pain, but at least I could continue to face another day with a crutch to help me hobble through.
It was not only my family and church that reinforced the message that people will hurt and betray you. It was also relationships outside of the home, with friends and boyfriends. Each friendship I had, I ended up being hurt and betrayed. Each boyfriend I gave my heart too, used and abused me. Again and again my heart received the message loud and clear: People are evil and are always going to hurt you. No matter what you do, you must protect and defend yourself.
My drive to hate just continued to grow throughout my life. With no outlet for healing, the pain would just get shoved further down and bottled up. As I entered early adulthood I began having problems with anger and rage. Physical abuse in my romantic relationships caused me to in turn become violent. I had to defend myself from the pain and attacks, and so physical fights became normal with men.
For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
I wanted desperately to be free from all of this anger and pain. I tried over and over again to forgive my parents for the abandonment I felt all those years. I wanted to start over and just love them for who they were. It worked for a time, as long as I ignored every longing I had for approval and affection. My parents were just as abused as I was, and they absolutely did the very best they could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to fill the cries of my soul for the love I so desired.
It wasn’t until I came to a place in my life where I was able to finally meet God again. To remember that He is real and not a God of pain and torment. That led to me being able to take a closer look at Jesus. This Jesus that I had to reject in order to protect myself. As I read the Gospel message of His love, something I had been previously deprived of, I realized, this is the love I had been missing out on my entire life. This is the man I needed but could never find all these years.
I gave myself wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ. I wanted nothing more than to allow His Holy Spirit to transform my broken pieces to a beautiful vessel of His love. However, I was still so very shattered and the pain was still constant. Jesus brought me to a place where I was able to have the grace to begin to see people from His point of view. The grace to begin to love and open up to others in a way I never had before. His love was overflowing through me, and I wanted nothing more than to share it with the world.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
That is not the end of the story, however. As I began my season of inner healing, the grace to love others unconditionally had to make way for the grace to face my pain. My pain was like an endless ocean, raging like a storm within my soul. As I lay bear all my pain, fear and shame, I came to a place of complete and utter brokenness. All my strength was gone, and all I could do was rely on Jesus to even make it through one day. It was all I could do to keep living.
While some saw this as a sign of disaster, I knew in my heart it was what I needed. I could continue to live in the undercurrent of pain, never knowing when it would swallow me whole, or I could face it head on, with the help of the Holy One, and receive healing and hope. When you have never had hope and get a taste of it, you always want more.
Through my inner healing, the real work of forgiving began. I knew about a lot of pain and rejection in my life, but I had no memories of the worse of the abuse. Once those began to be uncovered I had to dig very deeply to learn to forgive. Forgiving felt like saying everything bad that ever happened to me was OK. What Jesus taught me is that forgiving never means evil become good. What it means is I am allowing Him to be Lord over the circumstances that brought the pain, and then give all the pain to Him.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
I was never meant to carry such a heavy burden on my own. I was never meant to spend a life grieving what should have been. I was meant for freedom and for love. Things that had been stolen away from me in my innocence. All the hate and vengeance and anger I had been using as a weapon did not make me evil. In my heart I only wanted to protect myself from more torment. Jesus had already forgiven me, and so to forgive all the people who had hurt me was only going to set me free.
I no longer had to carry around the weapons of hate. Weapons I had fashioned out of fear and pain, but nonetheless weapons. What I hadn’t realized is that the weapons I was carrying were all actually aimed at me, and being used by the devil to hurt me even more. Once I began to hand over all of my weapons of hate, pain, shame, anger, rage, etc to Jesus, I saw the truth about who God made me to be. I am a light in this world, and a light on a hill cannot be hidden. I was no longer in need of hiding, because Jesus was setting me free.
All of us are carrying around some degree of pain and anger towards others, and self, that we are using as weapons. And just like me, you never meant those weapons for harm, but for protection. Jesus knows your heart and knows who He created you to be. So today, it is time to lay them down at His feet, cast every one of your burdens down before Him, and let the Truth set you free. There you will see what it looks like from a heavenly perception. A place where love, grace and mercy rule, and shame is put to the grave, forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.