Survival Guide For Young Women: Forgiveness
My friends Nicole Reyes and Holly Wagner gave me permission to share this chapter from their new book, "Survival Guide For Young Women" with you. The entire book is filled with insights that will change your life! Happy reading!
The F-Word: Forgiveness
"Without forgiveness, there's no future." -Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows what he's talking about. The only way to move forward and embrace the grand purpose and destiny God has in store for each of us is to forgive those who have wronged us in the past.
Now I know that for many of us, this concept of forgiveness is a hard pill to swallow. In fact, some of you reading this may be contemplating stapling this page of the book together and never looking at it again!
Many of you are thinking...
"Well, you don't know what he did to me."
"You've never had those harsh words spoken to you."
"What they did is just too cruel to forgive."
You are right. I don't know what you've been through... and I am deeply sorry that you have been wounded and hurt by those you've trusted. Something I do know is that our heavenly Father is head over heels in love with you, and He is not for a minute okay with the wrongs that have been done to you!
I also know that what's even worse than the pain of our past is what happens to us when we allow that pain to plague our present and sabotage our futures.
Unforgiveness is a trap. It keeps us chained to pain and disappointment, and unable to freely embrace the abundant life that Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead to give us.
Unforgiveness is also like a cancer that spreads in our souls. It taints all our relationships, ambitions, and experiences with bitterness and resentment. It's the worst kind of disease, with the capacity to destroy our hopes for the future.
I (Nicole) will never forget hearing a woman share her story at a GodChicks night many years ago. I was 19 years old, and fiercely loyal to the idea of never forgiving my father for what I had experienced in my home growing up. I was completely bitter and angry and determined to keep as much distance between my father and me. Of course, these are the sorts of thoughts I didn't articulate to my Christian friends. In fact, I made it a point to not talk about my feelings toward my dad with anyone, mostly because I knew how ugly and unkind these feelings really were.
Instead, I had made a choice in my heart to not speak to my father. And for a little while, I kept that resolution.
But that all changed as I sat listening to this courageous woman share the story of abuse she had been exposed to in her home as a child. She shared about how a real relationship with Jesus had brought healing and hope to her life. She described this healing journey as a process, and said an important step in that process was FORGIVENESS. She recognized that she had to forgive her mother and father for what had been done to her as a child. She encouraged all of us to make the strong, hard choice to forgive those who had wronged us.
I thought, "Forgiveness?! You've got to be kidding me! I am never going to forgive my dad! He should be asking me for forgiveness, and until he does, I'm not even going to entertain the thought!"
But no matter how hard I tried to fight it, by the time she reached the end of her story, I knew that as much as I hated the idea of forgiveness, it was what God was leading me to do...
I kicked and screamed in my heart over the idea. I cried and prayed all the way home that night. I remember praying, "This is too hard, God. I can't do it. How am I supposed to forgive him? Why would You ask me to do something this hard? Don't You love me?"
I truly believe this was our loving and wonderful Heavenly Father's response to me: "I do love you. More than you could ever know. It's because I love you that I want you to forgive. I want you free, and you won't be free without forgiveness."
That night I called my father. We hadn't exchanged words in a very long time. In fact, I was surprised he took my call. I suppose he was just as surprised that I had called in the first place.
I clenched the phone in my hand so tightly that my knuckles turned white. My hands wouldn't stop shaking. I struggled to control my voice as it cracked and swayed under the weight of confined tears.
And to my dismay, and by God's grace, I listened as these words poured out of my mouth, "Papi, I just wanted to call to tell you that I love you. And I am sorry. I want to ask for your forgiveness, because for so long I have been angry and bitter towards you. That's not right of me. I want you to know that I love you, and I am deeply sorry my love has been in question."
Then came an awkward silence that seemed to last forever. It may have been the longest pause of my life.
My father finally spoke. I could hear the tears in his shaking voice as he told me that he loved me, and that it was he who was sorry for all that had taken place.
It wasn't a long conversation that night. But some things don't have to be everlasting to be eternal.
My relationship with my father wasn't supernaturally repaired in one night. It had taken years for the brokenness to be formed, and it would take years for it to fully mend. But a bridge of reconciliation that I never imagined possible was built over the act of FORGIVENESS.
Perhaps even more miraculous was the shift that had taken place in my heart. It was as if a chain wrapped around me had burst open. I was beginning to understand the personal freedom that comes with forgiveness. Once I experienced this type of freedom, I resolved to never willingly allow myself to be chained and weighted down by unforgiveness again.
Forgiveness unlocks purpose and destiny. It allows us to run freely toward our future. It replaces skepticism with hope, and bitterness with love. Forgiveness is not an emotion. If you stop and think about it, you'll realize that forgiveness is never anything we naturally feel like doing.
No, forgiveness is a choice. It's a choice we have to make over and over again. We may have to choose in our heart to forgive someone a hundred times before the pain of the wrong loses its sting.
In fact, Jesus addressed this very point with His disciples:
"Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?"
"No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!"
(Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)
It is worth noting that forgiveness is not an invitation to allow someone to continue to harm us. I am so thankful that I was able to reconcile with my father and rebuild a loving relationship with him. For some of us, that may not be an option. There is a difference between forgiving someone and putting yourself in a harmful situation. You may need to seek the advice and support of your pastor or another Christian leader to help you navigate a particular situation. Remember, forgiveness is something we freely give, but trust is something that is earned.
Whether or not relationships are made new, our perspective on life certainly is. Forgiveness unleashes the God-given potential for greatness that lies within each of us. My prayer is that you have the courage to embrace the type of freedom only accessible through FORGIVENESS. After all, you were made for far more than a life confined by past hurts.
© 2013 I Am Treasure Ministry