The assault stole more than my innocence: it also taught me how to withhold forgiveness.
As time marched on, that single event began to chisel away at my soul, leaving me worn, scarred, and enslaved.
Cloaked in self-hatred, I silently berated myself for stepping into a dangerous situation. The trauma haunted me, yet I would continue to replay it over and over in my mind. I wished I could retrace my steps. Instead of seeking help, I numbed myself any way I could, finding solace in pills, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships.
Held hostage by hopelessness, dark thoughts became the compass for all my decisions and actions. Bleakness and negativity became my constant companions. I was positive I lacked the resilience I needed to bounce back and regain my life.
Wrought with shame, my life spiraled out of control. Yet there was one place where I thought I was perfectly in control: my hatred for the man who had inflicted the harm.
I jumped into the depths of unforgiveness headfirst.
The roots of bitterness and resentment took an insidious hold in my heart, growing thicker and deeper, while my dependence upon substances grew stronger at the same time. An empty bottle of painkillers precipitated hitting rock bottom and I finally sought professional counsel. My counselor—a seasoned, faith-filled woman—pointed me to Jesus, the One who could rescue me from myself and my past.
Becoming a follower of Jesus didn’t mean my life transformed overnight, but I began to accept and relish in His love for me. For the first time, I had true, genuine hope. The Lord began to heal my wounded heart and as hard layers began to soften, I was able to finally grasp the full weight of my own sins and failures. I confessed that not only had I kept my assaulter in a jailcell of anger, but I was also held hostage in one too.
In her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott states that withholding forgiveness is "like drinking rat poison and expecting it to kill the rat."
We can easily go about our days being bound in a jailcell--or drinking rat poison, as Lamott puts it.
But one of the most amazing aspects of a relationship with Jesus is the freedom found in forgiveness. When we extend the grace of forgiveness, we release those who have hurt, stolen, and shamed us to the One who forgave our every past, present, and future sin. And when we forgive, jailcell doors are opened wide. There is breakthrough. Healing. Transformation. Redemption. Lasting freedom.
So, precious one, as you journey into this new year, ask yourself if there are grudges and offenses that are keeping you bound. If so, please know that you aren’t alone.
But there is One who was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners. He gives us beauty instead of ashes. Gladness instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:1-2).
There is no better choice than to forgive and accept the gift of freedom that He willingly offers to everyone who would place their trust in Him.