The message at church last week was about forgiveness.  I’ve heard similar sermons, maybe hundreds of times – but I don’t think I can ever hear too many.

Forgiveness is very tough.  We expect justice or an apology before we are willing to forgive.  Or we are afraid that forgiving someone makes what they did “right.”  Or, in my case, not forgiving protects me from being hurt again.

It took me a long time to write my most recent story, “I am my own roadblock.”  It took even longer to decide to publish it on the website.  Now I understand why I had such a struggle with it, and also why I finally pushed the publish button.

I need to forgive.

I must have needed to write that story to get to this new place – because I have done tons of forgiving in my life.  I realize now that I may need to forgive some people more than once or twice.

His light shines on a new day…

At one time, years ago, I was a life coach.   There always came a time, with each client, that they hit a wall.   The only way to get through the wall was to forgive.  Those who chose to forgive, moved on.  I could not help the ones who chose not to forgive.

Because of that coaching experience, I heard about unspeakable, abusive occurrences that I could never have imagined (especially with my fairly sheltered background).  My training had taught me to stay objective and not “take on” the burden of my client’s issues – but sometimes I wanted to scream or cry or wave a magic wand to make their hurt go away.

Only Jesus has that power.  I had to give them to Him.

It would take a pretty long book to relate all of the tragic stories that were shared with me (and I have purposely attempted to forget most of them).   I will share two, without violating any confidentiality.

One person told me that she always needed to know if she would ever have to listen about forgiveness (mostly at church), because she couldn’t handle even hearing or thinking about it.  Her father had abused her so badly that she had never been able to forgive him.  Since God commands us to forgive, and she wasn’t able to, she had also developed bitterness toward herself.

The abuse was so bad that she refused to talk to me about it – except for one story.   As punishment, her father had put out his cigarettes on her arms.  They were so scarred that she only wore long sleeves.  I never saw the scars.  She said that was the least bad thing he did.  No wonder she couldn’t forgive him…

After 50 years of holding on to hatred for him, she read the book, “The Shack,” by William P. Young.   Reading that book allowed her to forgive her dad.  She told me about this experience, and I read the book.  It’s very different from any book I have ever read, but the positive impact in my own life has been incredible.

Another client had been so abused that she couldn’t remember anything about her childhood, but she couldn’t stop crying (while she was awake.)  She had been to therapist after therapist and workshop after workshop.  I prayed for guidance in her situation, more than any other I had encountered.  I tried every training technique that I had learned.

One day, she had one memory.  She remembered that she had been punished by her mother, forced to sit, naked, in a tub of ice water the entire day.  And that her mother kept adding ice, when it looked like it had melted.  She couldn’t remember how old she was or what she had done to be punished.   She never came up with another memory.  I, too, had to give up on being able to help her.

Since she was a Christian, I told her to attempt to turn her past over to God and to focus on the present and future.  I suggested that she attend a positive, uplifting seminar and to read positive, inspiring books – to inject hope into her life.  If and when God wanted her to remember and deal with her past, I assured her that He would take care of her.

She wrote me a letter, about a year later, and told me that she had done what I had suggested and it had helped.  She had stopped crying and was able to get a job.  She still had no memories, but had stopped focusing on that.

Their stories, and others, made mine seem small in comparison.  But comparing isn’t constructive.   I have learned that something seemingly small in nature (to me), can produce devastating damage to someone’s emotional health.

Here’s my “short” list, and I’m going to actively work on continuously forgiving each one:

  • My mother (I’ve been most successful in forgiving her, but sometimes a new, negative memory pops up…)
  • My father
  • The children in grade school who made fun of me
  • The children in grade school who bullied me
  • The teachers who crushed my dreams
  • The preachers who taught me to only fear God and believe I had to be perfect to be loved by Him
  • The people who have caused damage (to me) in car accidents
  • The men who broke my heart or abandoned me when I needed them most
  • The man who raped me
  • The man who fired me when I was in the hospital
  • The adult women who have been mean to me
  • The doctor who crippled me for life
  • The girl who killed my sister-in-law in a car accident
  • God, for allowing all of this to happen
  • Me, for not being perfect (and not always able…or ready…to forgive)

 

 

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