When I think of forgiveness in my own life, my mind goes quickly to the most difficult acts of forgiveness I ever had to make. I think back to my childhood. Although blessed with many good things as a child, I was a victim of sexual abuse. I also remember watching in horror as wonderful women I loved were verbally and physically abused. Not knowing how to deal with my pain and anger, I hid them inside, where they festered into paralyzing fear and unyielding hatred. My inner brokenness became a part of my identity as I grew.
I was 17 years old when I began to walk in forgiveness. I remember reading Jesus’ words, when He said, “As you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” I was angry at first. How could Jesus call me to forgive the men who had violated me and hurt others that I loved? I began to remember my own selfish and sinful heart, and confessed to God that I needed His mercy in my life. So, it was my responsibility to forgive others as God forgives me. I knew forgiveness would not be an easy road, but I told God that I wanted to walk it, since that was His will.
It was so hard at first. Hatred and bitterness had become to me as natural as breathing. It felt unnatural choosing to bless instead of curse. Day by day, sometimes moment by moment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I chose forgiveness. Gradually, my burden lifted, and my brokenness began to heal.
By the grace of God, today I stand in freedom. Those men who hurt me no longer hold sway over my emotions. I no longer fear or hate them. My heart is sad when I think of them, but only because I see how they injured their own souls while trying to destroy mine.
Rob Bell defines the result of forgiveness as “finally being able to wish the other well.” What radical grace. What depth of love. What an act of redemption.
That sounds so much like Jesus.