I am inspired to write seven blogs reflecting on how each relates to me. We call it, LOVE'S LAST WORDS, because Jesus, full of love as he died, mustered up all his strength to say seven things that would change the world forever. BLOG #1. FORGIVENESS
I’ve tried three times to contact him. I googled him. He lives two hours from where I live in California (which is ironic because when I knew him we both lived in Illinois). He has an email because I found it on his website, for his job, in which he is well known. I emailed him twice. I messaged him on Facebook once, but I haven’t heard a thing back.
Let me back up.
It was October, about a year ago. I was called in as an “emergency grief counselor,” to comfort and pray with high school students, like a priest, through the unthinkable. One of their peers took his life. Students questioned, sobbed, and even confessed their own depression, self-hatred, and temptations to end it all.
I prayed. I listened. I sat silently, as words don't always help in these situations.
If you’ve read my blog posts before, or know my story, suicide and its destruction is a companion I know far too well. I tried to keep my own emotions at bay, but as I left the campus, I erupted and nothing could stop it. I almost had to pull my car over for fear of running off the road as I couldn't stop crying.
Sadly, my reaction this October day was tied to a completely different tragedy from my past. The pain these students carried in their self worth issues, rivaled my own pain, that had marked me some twenty-five years before.
Like many, my middle school and high school years were marked with awkwardness. Those already tough times of coming into one’s identity, crowded with questions, family challenges, and puberty is hard to make out alive, let alone normal. But my story included some of the most deeply cutting, evil moments of bullying. (Of which cost me lots of money in counseling, but that also saved me in so many ways).
We humans can be downright awful to each other. And from age 13-17 I incurred some scars. I have had much healing and I'm glad that those days are in the past. But there are times, like this day in the car, when I am teleported back in time against my will, to relive and remember those moments. And it can still hurt, and hurt bad.
I hear the names I was called in those dingy hallways like it was yesterday. I can see the hateful faces that pressed me up against a locker or two. I'm glad I didn't have the guts to follow through with my own suicidal temptations.
One bully in particular, in sixth and seventh grade, left me significantly bruised (in more ways than one). His name is hard to forget. After all these years, I never thought of ever looking him up. Why would I? I wanted to get as far away from him as possible. Although, I admit, I dreamed of a day when I'd have my revenge. I hoped I would be bigger, smarter, and more condescending then him so I could make him feel small, as he did me.
I even fantasized about being on one of those outrageous talk shows like Maury Povich or Jerry Springer, where people confront their baby daddies, cheating girlfriends, and extortionist grandmothers. I imagined inviting him there on false pretenses like you won a million dollars or you have a secret crush from high school who's now a celebrity. Then I would turn the tables on him and shame him in front of America for the things he said and did. And I’d gloat in hearing the crowds boo him and stir a riot where they all beat him over the head with metal folding chairs.
Yes, I’ve had those thoughts. And yes, I thought, at one time, it would make me feel better. I'm not proud of that. But that October day, this twenty-five year old pain resurrected in me and with it a new opportunity for forgiveness was birthed, and a new narrative began. All because the words of Jesus, from the cross, echoed in my mind in a new way.
Jesus was bullied. Jesus was hurt, stabbed, spat upon, beat up, bruised, ridiculed, forgotten, mocked, whipped, and mutilated beyond human recognition. And the first thing he says from the cross, out loud, is a prayer of forgiveness. He tells God to forgive those whipping him, mocking him, pulling out his flesh, and nailing him to the cross. He forgives those who are killing him!
I was overwhelmed in my car with this fact: God is a forgiver! God forgave me for everything I've ever done, and will continue to shower me with grace for the rest of my life. I was like the one nailing him to the cross, I was the one mocking him, and he had forgiveness in his heart for me.
Every time we sin, every time we steal, kill, destroy someone with our thoughts, words, and actions, we have no idea what we are really doing. We have no idea the pain we are causing, and the dishonor we show not only God, but every victim of our our actions.We have no idea the years of pain we inflict on people through judging, deceiving, bullying, divorcing, cheating, betraying, _________(fill in the blank).
(And God knows this. And God has compassion on us, even while though there are consequences for our actions, and for those who exercise their free will to hurt others. God is a just God. He will discipline fairly and in a righteous way)
It wasn't easy, and it still hurts. But I knew, in some way, I had unforgiveness in my heart toward my bully, and I knew I had to deal with it. I'm still not sure how this all happens, and it truly is a process, but a new freedom came to me in my car. I realized he didn't really know how it was going to affect me. He had his own fear, insecurity, or pain that caused him to hurt others. And it was time for me to reach out to him. So I did.
I still haven't heard back from him, but if I do, I will tell him how his bullying actions hurt me. I won't shame him. I won't guilt him, but I'll say I forgive him because I want to, because God helped me to forgive and heal. And I'l tell him I'm actually still in process of learning to let it go and I'm still healing twenty-five years later.
Believe it or not, I'm still learning to believe God loves me. I'm still trying to accept he made me in his image, and I belong to him. I'm not all those names I was marked with years ago. It's crazy how things can have a lasting affect on someone. But I've done the same things. I've hurt others in the same way. In fact, there might be some out there that are still in pain because of things I've done, who need to forgive me.
So I pray, we can be a people who forgive, because God forgives us.
God loves us, and that changes the way we relate to others.
GOD LOVES YOU and I hope you will be encouraged to take a look at the hurt you carry, or the grudges that way you down, by starting with the cross. If you have UNforgiveness toward someone, or plot revenge in your mind or wish evil against any person , or have hate for anyone in your life who has hurt you...then you aren't free, and you don't understand the saving love of God. (And please know this can be a long process for some).
Start with JESUS, the man, the savior, the one died FOR you, AND FOR the one who hurt you. The only way we can forgive is to know the forgiveness of Jesus.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Have you seen the movie Unbroken? There's so much more to his story. And it was all about forgiveness. It humbles me when I want to hold grudges on those who "hurt" me.
I want to be unreasonable.
Forgiveness doesn't mean we become best friends, or even have to stay in contact with those who hurt us. (Sometimes it's better we don't). Forgiveness is about our heart and mind, how we think and feel. We can forgive. Even if it takes a lifetime to do so. It is worth it. That is why I had to reach out to my bully, and I hope he can know the love and forgiveness of God.
Father forgive my bully, for he did not know what he was doing.
How about you?
FATHER FORGIVE ____________________.......
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