The Surprise of a Life-freeing Gift
As I listened to her, I had to get over my stunned disbelief that this open, friendly, confident-looking young woman with the bright smile had come through a soul-destroying childhood. She made one statement on that day that had me thinking and praying for the life-freeing gift I saw in her.
Her words, simple and clear:
“I want to start by saying that I have forgiven all the people mentioned, and I am not sharing what happened to dishonour them in any way.”
This statement could be unremarkable until you realize the size of the list of people she cares not to dishonour by telling her story:
- There’s the father who raped her and took photographs of her naked body. Then he let his friends rape her for a price.
- There’s a mother who stayed with that father, until her attempted suicide at age 13 forced the secrets out in the open. Then her mother blamed her for the divorce.
- There were the countless, faceless men who used her body as a playground when she started first stripping, then prostituting.
- There was the pimp who threatened her life any time she said “no,” to anyone or anything.
- There were professionals who stole her hope by telling her she would never function normally in society.
- There was the man who raped her–interrupting her healing process–even while she was grieving the loss of her beloved grandmother.
Just when I started to wonder if a person could really forgive this much violation, she joyfully shared how she recently offered forgiveness to her mother. She’s grateful her mother received it and apologized. “We are now on our way to rebuilding our relationship,” she told me. Her willingness to forgiveness has put her on the road to reconciliation.
I’ve always thought that Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is one of the hardest things He asks us to do. It goes against our instinct for payback, against my independent spirit that says, “I’m a big girl, I can deal with difficult people myself.” Listening to this beautiful woman tell her story against the backdrop of forgiveness makes me wonder if I just don’t “get it,” the way she does.
She “gets” the helplessness of trying to do things her own way. She “gets” the destruction that comes with holding on to hurt, anger, resentment and pain. Going her own way led her to mental breakdowns, suicide attempts and entrapment in the sex trade. As I watched her tell her story, I realized that–more that anything–now she also “gets” the relief and release that comes from finally surrendering to God’s way.
Brand-new in her faith since coming to Mercy Ministries, she has fallen in love with her Creator. Her eager-to-follow-Jesus attitude, which lights up her smile in a new way, also makes her willing to go along with anything He asks.
I imagine that when He says, “Forgive,” her question is not, “Why should I?” but rather: “How, Lord?”
When He responds: “As I forgave you,” she might say, “Oh, like that?”
The fresh memory of His forgiveness and the overwhelming relief and release she experienced through that, frees her to forgive all the people who made her childhood such a nightmare. That is a life-freeing gift.
Lord, keep the memory of the joy of your forgiveness fresh in my mind, so I no longer feel burdened by your command to forgive but am, instead, freed by it.
Dear SheLoves friends:
- Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?
- Do you know or remember the sweet taste of Jesus’ forgiveness?
- Any thoughts or comments you’d like to share?
My life is lived out of the calling “to advance Christ-centred work.” I am currently Director of Marketing and Development at Mercy Ministries, working to get the word out about the life-transforming work that takes place here. Prior to my work at Mercy, I directed a Crisis Pregnancy Centre, studied Christianity and Culture at Regent College and co-led women’s programs at my local church. I have four great children and am married to Steven, a gift to me from the Creator.
Image credit: Someday, by Martina Perhat.