I guess my whole life I have been trying to understand how I was created to live. There were many things I had to unlearn; truth that had been distorted, twisted and bent. It was through hearing the stories of other people that lead me to Him; through their willingness to be vulnerable and real, I encountered Jesus.
I want to share a piece of my story with you that changed the direction of my life; and I pray the story of Jesus will come alive to you. It is not easy to be vulnerable and this is an especially difficult one for me; it is about forgiveness. I believe forgiveness is for the strong, it is not weakness; and I believe we were created to live authentically, strong and with a lifestyle of forgiveness.
I am so glad this one lady opened her life up to me (just for the story, I will call her Bethany). I think my story would have been very different if she had not been vulnerable …
I walked out the door. It slammed. I couldn’t believe she said that to me. I have to forgive him? He was the one who had lied, he was the one who had been unfaithful; I had found him with another woman, and she was telling me to forgive him! That was crazy! I walked down the driveway, got into my car, and left the house.
I went home and pulled out this Bible she had given me. I just knew that somewhere in this book it would say I didn’t have to forgive a person who betrayed me! I planned to stay up all night if I had to; it had to be there. I searched and searched—all night.
It was around three in the morning, and I remember crying out to God, not sure if He was there: “It has to be here. What do you mean about this forgiveness? I was the one hurt. I am still hurting. He is running around doing whatever he wants to do. God, help me understand.”
I opened my Bible to Matthew, Bethany told me this was the first book of the New Testament and maybe a good place to start reading. I saw where this disciple, Peter, asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother—up to seven times? Jesus actually said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt 8:21–35). And He always said, “Forgive.”
What? I just couldn’t find where Jesus said it was OK not to forgive a person who had lied to you, betrayed you, broke a covenant with you, rejected you, and hurt you beyond any pain you had ever known.
I had to go and see this lady again. Would she let me come into her house? I had not been very nice. I had left without saying good-bye. She was my only hope.
The next afternoon, I drove to her house; very slowly, I parked the car and went up to the door. I was afraid she would ask me to leave, but she opened the door, gave me a big hug, and escorted me to my favorite chair by the window. She made tea and asked if I wanted something to eat …
Who was this woman? I didn’t know, but I was drawn to her and wanted to know more about this Jesus she talked about.
I love the quote from Alice in Wonderland: “If you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit in the dark with you.”
This lady sat with me in the dark – a very dark time in my life. She fed me; she let me cry and at times, she held me; she let me yell; she let me sit and stare. She eventually began to teach me and disciple me. Through her story, I saw Jesus.
Over a period of time, I released my husband. Forgiveness was a process; it didn’t happen over night. I wish I could say it did. Maybe forgiveness is a place you need to start, maybe it is hindering the Christian formation process in your life? You see, if I had not forgiven my husband, his actions would still be controlling me today.
People have asked, how did I forgive him? Bethany instructed me to get alone by myself, have a seat and to put a chair in front of me; to see my husband sitting there and tell him how much he hurt me, and how much I hated him. She said to let this take as long as I needed for it to; that forgiveness is not saying what the person did was okay; it was not pretending. She said, I needed to be real. And when I was ready, I could make the choice to forgive this man.
I didn’t know at the time it had a name, but I have learned what I did is called a practice or discipline; and the early Christians practiced such disciplines all the time. Every morning, I would sit in a chair before I went to work, and I would repeat the Scriptures about myself and about God that Bethany had given to me. And I would remember I had said I had forgiven my husband; sometimes I would do it again. I believe as I focused on God and the Scriptures, it gave Holy Spirit space to heal in my heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit. Transformation took place, and I was drawn closer and closer to Him.
“You have to keep saying to yourself: ‘I am being loved by an unconditional, unlimited love. That love allows me to be a free person, center of my own actions and decisions.’ The more you can come to realize this, the more you will be able to forgive those who have hurt you and love them in their brokenness. Without a deep feeling of self-respect, you cannot forgive and will always feel anger, resentment, and revenge. The greatest human act is forgiveness: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ Forgiveness stands in the center of God’s love for us and also in the center of our love for each other. Loving one another means forgiving one another over and over again.”
– Henri Nouwen
“God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be world changers.” – Ann Voscamp
Listen to the song below called: Be Formed in Us. Ask God to make you aware if there is anyone you need to forgive today. Invite Him to reveal His intimate presence. Christ wants to be formed in us, and sometimes forgiveness is a place to start.
Be Formed in Us by Becky Frith
(From the Album Incredible Grace, which can be bought from iTunes or www.beckyfrithmusic.com)
We fix our eyes on You, our Lord
Our source of life, our Cornerstone
Search us oh God and make us new
Help us to hope and live in You
Renew our minds, enlarge our souls
Revive our hearts and make us whole
May we know love, may we know grace
And true communion of the saints
Be formed in us, be formed in us
Christ our Savior, Christ our living hope
Be formed in us
Your song resounds from age to age
New streams of life from ancient wells
Help us to see with eyes of faith
How You are moving in our day
Oh, that we might know You more and more
And all the riches of Your love and power
The inheritance that’s ours in You
Be formed in us
Some of the Scriptures I repeated as I sat with Father, Son & Holy Spirit:
Who God is to us:
- Gen 15:1 He is our shield (defense) and our very great reward.
- Jer 32:17 Nothing is too difficult for Him.
- Eph 3:20 He is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.
- Rom 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Rom 8:38-39 Nothing in all creation can separate us from His love.
- Jn 17:23 He loves us as much as He loves Jesus.
- Is 40:12-31 He is absolutely sovereign, who knows the end from the beginning.
- Is 46:3-10 His purpose will stand.
- Ps 103 His love for us is greater than the height of the heavens above the earth. He’s removed our sins from us and has compassion on us as a loving father on a son or daughter.
- Heb 13:5 He will never, never leave us nor forsake us.
- Ps 86:15 He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.
- Matt 11:29 He is gentle, tender and humble in heart.
- Eph 3:16-19 His love for us is beyond our natural mind’s ability to grasp.
- Col 3:12 He has chosen us and loves us dearly.
- Ps 23 He is our shepherd and supplies all our needs.
- Jn 10:14,15 He restores our soul.
- Gen 15:20 He has everything rigged to work for our good.
- Rom 8:28 He works everything out for good to those who love God.
- Ps 25:3 No one who puts their hope in Him will be put to shame, nor be disappointed.
- Is 49:23 No one who puts their hope in God will be put to shame.
Who I am in Christ…I am accepted:
- Jn 1:12 I am God’s child
- Jn 15:15 I am Christ’s friend
- Rom 5:1 I have been justified
- 1 Cor 6:17 I am united with the Lord and I am one spirit with Him
- 1 Cor 6:20 I have been with a price, I belong to God
- 1 Cor 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body
- Eph 1:1 I am a saint
- Eph 1:5 I have been adopted as God’s child
- Eph 2:18 I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit
- Col 1:14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins
- Col 2:10 I am complete in Christ
In Christ…I am secure:
- Rom 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation
- Rom 8:28 I am assured that all things work together for good when I love God
- Rom 8:31-34 I am free from all condemning charges against me
- Rom 8:35-39 I can not be separated from the love of God
- 2 Cor 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God
- Col 3:13 I am hidden with Christ in God
- Phil 1:6 I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected
- Phil 3:20 I am a citizen in heaven
- 2 Tim 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind
- Heb 4:16 I can find grace and mercy to help in time of need
- 1 Jn 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one can not touch me
In Christ…I am significant
- Matt 5:13-14 I am the salt and light of the earth
- Jn 15:1-5 I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life
- Acts 1:8 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit
- 1 Cor 3:16 I am God’s temple
- 2 Cor 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God
- 2 Cor 6:1 I am God’s fellow worker
- Eph 2:6 I am seated with God in the heavenly realm
- Eph 2:10 I am God’s workmanship
- Eph 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence
- Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
Teresa Greer Drew (2017) Pages From Her Story