Forgiveness is such a beautiful thing. Once you truly embrace forgiveness you are giving yourself permission to live again. When you choose to forgive someone for the wrong they’ve committed, you are releasing yourself from the cycle of pain. This was something I would need to learn and embrace.
When I was fifteen I woke up in the middle of night vomiting and had pain in the lower right side of my belly. I was certain it was my appendix. I had already seen our family doctor with this concern and he did a simple to test to determine that in fact my appendix was “smothering”. We decided to not take it out until it needed to come out. When morning came, I spoke with my sisters and it was decided that I should go in and see a doctor. Our family physician was on vacation at the time and his new hire was standing in for him. The office took me in right away knowing that it was my appendix. What was supposed to happen, was the doctor was to perform the simple (but uncomfortable) test, then send me off to the hospital down the road. Well, things didn’t go as planned. When I was called into the room and the door closed behind us, his friendly greeting quickly turned to a scowl. His words became harsh, his tone growling. He started asking me questions about sexual activity. I responded to those questions with a question of my own; “Dr., I’m sure this is my appendix. What do your questions have to do with my appendix?” That’s when he got very angry and I got very scared. He dismissed the notes in my file and began to state sharply that he was certain there was another issue and that he would have to do an internal physical exam. My parents weren’t down with these sorts of tests being done on me as I was young and there simply wasn’t a need. Our family doctor understood, but this guy didn’t. I said over and over, that if he did this exam that my parents would get very upset with him, to which be replied, “Your parents don’t need to know.” That’s when the struggle began. During the struggle I remember being gripped with such fear, wondering how on earth am I going to get out of this. I kept asking him to stop. It seemed like the more I said stop, the angrier, and crude and degrading his remarks were. In my head I prayed, “Oh God, help me.” He answered that request rather quickly because just then an angel stepped into the room. Nurse Anne! She didn’t even knock. She just barged in, she took my hand, ended the exam and said that she wasn’t going anywhere until the proper test was performed and I was sent off to the hospital. A few minutes later, I was getting my things together and on my way to the hospital. I never shared what happened with anyone. Not even my sister who was waiting for me in the waiting room.
Several years later, I was sitting on my back porch. It was a beautiful, warm spring day. As I sat, I chatted with God and at one point I asked, “Lord, when I was young did something happen to me?” Instantly my sight went black and flashes of moments, like a slideshow, began to play. My childhood memories were coming back. I saw who abused me as a child and I saw what they did. I remembered what they were wearing. I remembered where the abuse would take place. I remembered the feel of the leather couch and the scent of the room. I finally knew I wasn’t broken, but abused. In that moment there was a sense of relief that I finally knew, but then such sadness and grief came over me. I ran inside to tell my husband what had just happened. He held me and prayed over me, then made a statement; “ You know what you need to do. You’ve done it before. You can do it again”. He was talking about forgiveness.
Over and over I have (and continue to) ask God to forgive me. I am human and I make a lot of mistakes. I know I have hurt people and myself. I understand that I am in need of forgiveness first. It’s easy to ask for forgiveness, it’s a totally different story to forgive someone else who has cut you so deep. Matthew 6:12 says, “Forgive me as I forgive those that have sinned against me”. I read somewhere that, “forgiving comes naturally to the forgiven”. Natural doesn’t mean easy. Childbirth is natural and we all know that is not easy! That is work. I had to work at forgiveness. I knew that in both cases, of the rape and abuse, that I would never get an apology. I’m not sure that would have changed anything. What I learned was that if I didn’t choose to let go of my hurt, that I would be forever connected to my abusers. They would keep me chained to my memories, my sadness and my anger. They were off living their lives not thinking of me, but here I was thinking of them and reliving the past. In the scripture above, the Greek word for forgive (aphiemi) is defined as: I send away, I LET GO, release, permit to depart. Forgiveness is to understand that God loves you far beyond you could ever imagine and He is asking you to send away the pain and the shame. He’s asking you to let go of your anger and your need for revenge. He’s inviting you to depart from the life you once knew, into something beautiful. He’s asking you to give it to Him. What a beautiful trade off (see Isaiah 61:3).
I immediately went up to my room, closed the door and began to pray an all too familiar prayer. It was the prayer I said over and over again, as I chose to let go of the rape. It was similar to this prayer I found later on in life from Neil Anderson:
Father, I know that you love me. I know what happened grieved you as much as it did me. Lord, here I am broken and hurt, but today I choose to forgive (name of person who hurt me), for (here I just told him everything that was done to me). God, It made me feel dirty, worthless, hated, confused (insert your own feelings). I hand these people over to you, for you to deal with them. I release my right to seek revenge. I choose not to hold onto my anger, bitterness and pain. I ask you to heal my broken heart and damaged emotions and make me whole again. I ask you to touch the hearts of those that hurt me. I pray for their salvation and that you would bless them. In Jesus name, Amen
I prayed this prayer everyday (sometimes multiple times a day) for a while, until I could see the affects of forgiveness in my life. I would encourage you to begin praying this prayer. Remember forgiveness is more often than not, a journey. It can take time. So don’t approach this prayer as a magic potion, because you will be disappointed. Join me next week as we dive deeper into what forgiveness is and what it is not. My prayer is that through my story you will find the courage and strength to let go. Remember to subscribe so you never miss a post.
Be Brave. Have Courage.