I went back and forth with what to share with you all today. I’ll admit that I was just going to piece together a feel-good story that would help me meet the “Thoughtful Thursday” mark, but that’s not me. I always want to give you something directly from my heart in the hopes that I can, in some way, change your life. So here goes…
The last year and a half to two years have been a continuous cycle of transitions and processes. In this time, I have seen many tides turn: friendships redefined, losses and gains, a few forevers cut short, and even a start from scratch. All things considered, what has been most notable about this journey is the transformation of ME — I am different now. Somewhere along the way, I asked God to show me who I was even if it would hurt me. Well the old adage is, “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.” What followed that humble request were revelations about me…things that were deep rooted within my heart and mind, things that were toxic, old wounds that had been left unattended and were now infected, and even some of the my stubborn ways. I have shared many of these issues through previous blogs, and these stories will be available in my book that will be released soon. Of the array of revelations, I became very aware of (could no longer ignore) the unforgiveness I carried and didn’t want to rectify. I carried these feelings for a few family members, an ex boyfriend or three, and a few former friends. I discovered that hatred had began to fester within my heart, and I was dying inside because of it.
After this great revelation, I began one of the most painful journeys that I have ever trod: the journey to forgiveness. Just like in a therapy session, it hurt before it got better. Everything was fair game: repressed memories, ignored circumstances, and even the emotions and occurrences that I hid behind my “mask.” I won’t relive all of those singular details as you can either read them in some blogs that are still posted or either my upcoming book, but I will summarize by saying that for me, forgiveness didn’t happen overnight. There were conversations that had to be had, prayers that had to be prayed, tears that had to be shared, and healing that only God himself could provide. I am still on that journey.
Okay now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way, I can finally share what’s on my heart. I have had the opportunity to address almost all of those who I carried “emotions” for. (As mentioned in a previous blog, I don’t hold grudges, I hold emotions.) From there I made the choice to forgive and began walking those steps. Yes, the choice came before I actually forgave them. Not in every case was there reconciliation to the relationship that we once shared, but in each instance God created an opportunity for my to prove my progress. It’s kind of like when a science teacher teaches a lesson then tells the students to go into the lab and perform what they learned. That’s what happened with me. God allowed people to cross my path again, he allowed opportunities for us to work together on projects, he created spaces for us to talk again after the big “Come to Jesus” conversation, and I had to show that all of this private healing and transforming was real. I had to show God that when faced with my past and an opportunity for past responses I wouldn’t revert to who I once was. When faced with that challenge, would I be the same old Chris or would I show that I want to really be like Him, because ultimately the goal of the believer is be like Christ?
Forgiving requires being open minded. That is the biggest lesson that I’ve learned and greatest challenge that I’ve had to face. “Chris, you aren’t always right! You can’t see the whole picture all of the time! Your feelings aren’t the only ones that matter! You don’t know everything; there is more to the story!” You see how that can be hard to process? That required me to not be selfish. Scratch that; that required me to accept that as much as I thought I wasn’t, I was selfish.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with a former offender of mine. Though I had forgiven, I held tightly to a few ideals including the notion that though she had apologized, she could in no way make up for how badly she hurt me and how that pain affected my life. It was part “forgive but never forget” and a dash of ” once a ______ (fill in the blank), always a _______.” Our dealings were better, but there a remained a part of me that was cold towards her because of what she did. Then she began to share some of her story with me. She told me about her childhood, her friends and family dynamics, her hardships in adulthood, and all of the things that brought her to this place. It was as if she was adding the missing puzzle pieces or filling in color for all of the areas that were merely shades of grey. It was if all of a sudden, I understood. I understood her, I understood how she could hurt me, and I understood that there were parts of her that were hurting. “Hurt people hurt people.”
I want to share three scriptures with you.
“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
Luke 7:47 [New Living Translation]
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.“
1 Peter 4:8 [New Living Translation]
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32 [New Living Translation]
I’m sure you are wondering what these three scriptures have to do with one another let alone this blog. Please be open minded, okay?
Luke 7:47 is one of my favorite scriptures because it is the summary of my life. The one who has been forgiven for much has the tendency to love on a greater level. It really boils down to being grateful that God would even consider forgiving someone who ultimately hurt and offended him so much. And because of this great compassion from God, there is a great compassion for others. You get what I am saying?
In 1 Peter 4:8, I imagine love as an oversized quilt. I think of a quilt opposed to a regular blanket because a quilt is made of many random pieces of fabric stitched together. In my short almost 30 years, I have learned that love is by no means perfect. It is comprised of work, sacrifice, trust, desire, and yes, forgiveness. Love can’t be narrowed down to just one thing, just as God cannot be described in totality by one attribute, and the Bible tells us that God is love. So back to this image. You know how as you make your bed you take the blanket and toss it in the air a little and let it fall to cover the sheets? I imagine the quilt of [God’s] love does that and perfectly covers any and all of our sins that are exposed. And those of us who carry God’s love seek to do that for others as well. We won’t pick at people’s shortcomings or downfalls but we seek to cover them like a bandage and help them to heal.
So let’s couple those two scriptures with the last, John 8:32, and I’ll show you how it is relevant to my story. Once I opened my mind and heard the story of my offender, I had a choice. I could be selfish and only see things from my point of view or explore a new perspective. Because I am like the sinful woman in Luke 7 who has been forgiven for much, I found myself being very compassionate in that moment. Being the empath that I am, I understood her emotions as she shared with me. I could feel her hurt, apprehension, rejection, longing to be wanted, and feelings of inadequacy; they were all feelings I had felt before. Imagine that. My offender was more like me than I thought! In that moment, I wanted love (mine and God’s) to cover what she found courage to expose to me. Most importantly, her truth set me free. No, it didn’t magically erase all of my hurts or pains, but it did relieve some pressure. In some ways, it answered the question, “Why?” Furthermore, I felt free to not continue to carry emotions (not grudges). Sometimes we condition ourselves to always have some form of a vendetta against our offenders even when we’ve confessed that we’re over it. We have been preconditioned that once someone hurts you, it is your job to never trust them again, at least not without making them pass an intensive screening, jump through several hoops, and prove that they are 100% different. My revelation in this journey to healing is sometimes my offenders are in a healing process too. It is okay for me to mention a former friend’s name without grimacing. It is okay for me to show genuine support to an ex without wishing that something would fall a part. It is even okay to communicate with someone who hurt me without feeling like I have to remind them of just how badly they broke me every time. I have also discovered that sometimes the company you keep can be responsible for helping you cling to a grudge that God has already given you the peace to release. Sheesh!
Just like I wouldn’t want anybody to rush my steps, whether baby steps or leaps, I can’ t rush their steps either. Forgiveness is not my journey alone. Even my offender is allowed to heal too.
This may be a bit broken but I pray it makes sense. With whatever step on the journey to forgiveness and healing you are taking today, please consider that there is another perspective to consider. I used to hear people say that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. We do very well accounting for what we’ve felt, what we know, and how we are hurting. There is also the story of your offender who has his/her own set of pains, feelings, and facts. Then there is God who can see the entire story and provide healing to parties on both sides. Since opening my mind and heart to view things a different way, I have found peace and a sense of relief. I feel like another wound healed. Not all is forgotten and I still feel a twinge of pain occasionally, but I feel like I am another step closer to being whole. I pray the same for you.
I hope this helps.