Part 3 of 3-Part Series
Why Forgive and How to Forgive provide the foundation to build our stories of forgiveness. My prayer for you is that you find peace in your self-gift of forgiveness toward another person regardless of how severe the sin. I know people who have horrendous stories that include mutilation, sex abuse, abandonment, and even murder. Although my own personal history touches on some of these and the process of forgiveness, I share my story of freedom that started in November 2010, when I met my current husband over breakfast after his mother connected us through Match.com. That, in itself, is its own crazy God story.
Darin and I became fast friends, keeping it friendly, after I learned over our first breakfast that he was separated, living on his own, and a few months from finalizing his divorce. He had two daughters, one 19 years who was already away at college and the other, 13-year old Sarah*, who primarily lived with her mother.
We kept a low public profile in friendship, even when the relationship eventually turned to dating. Unfortunately, Darin’s ex-wife struggled with mental health issues which spilled over into her sharing raging falsehoods about Darin and me to Sarah and anyone else who would listen. Darin was forced to create two separate lives in order to enjoy the company of two important women in his life. Well after the divorce Sarah still refused to meet me.
Darin continually encouraged Sarah to meet me since he knew at some point our courtship would lead to marriage. She in return refused with no explanation. Darin’s bribery and cajoling had no influence in changing Sarah’s mind. I occasionally wrote letters of encouragement and among other points let her know she was always welcome. I didn’t want her to feel reluctant in reaching out in the future, because she felt embarrassed by her past behavior.
Eventually, I accepted Jesus as my personal savior, and Darin and I believed God brought us together for Kingdom work on earth. Our relationship strengthened in love and mission while Sarah continued to dig in her heels—refusing to meet me. As time passed, I can honestly admit I increasingly felt frustrated and disrespected as well as developed ill feelings toward Sarah as well as her mother who had contributed in creating this sour situation.
After 2 years, Darin told Sarah he was going to propose marriage by the next time she saw him. At the time Darin didn’t know that this would be the last day Sarah chose to see her father for several years. I felt more hurt and disrespected which was magnified by the pain I saw in Darin as he struggled with his daughter’s choice. It’s been 10 years since Darin and I met, and I have yet to have a conversation with Sarah.
By the eighth year, I was angry at Sarah—to the point that I hoped she never took me up on my open-door offer. My heart was hardened, I didn’t feel generous in spirit, and I admit that unforgiveness getting a foothold. I didn’t wish her harm in any way, but neither did I wish good things for her. That was the ugly truth. My natural heart is always wanting the best for people—afterall, that’s why I became a life coach. I didn’t like the way my unforgiving thoughts made me feel about myself.
My Story – The Act of Forgiveness
I knew that I had to forgive Sarah—not that she was asking for it—but so I could be free of these negative feelings toward Sarah. I know how hard it is. Half of me was feeling hurt and justified based on how Sarah was treating me. The other half of me knew that my feelings were clashing with my Christian values and putting a degree of separation with God. I knew forgiving Sarah was 100% within my control, independent of what Sarah did or didn’t do, and was a gift to myself—albeit a hard gift to receive.
I sat quietly with God, asking Him to help me with a forgiving mindset and confessing my sin of unforgiveness. I forgave Sarah for any ill-will, attitude, and behaviors toward me. “I forgive you, Sarah, for … I pray that God blesses you by …” [details intentionally omitted]. I kept repeating the words aloud, giving the words power. The more I forgave Sarah, the more peace I found. I had to repeat my words over and over to push out the demonic influences.
We live in a fallen world, so the Devil will continue to plant seeds that disconnect us from people with unforgiveness and thus causing greater separation with God. I admit that as time moves forward and nothing changes with Sarah, there’s a propensity for negative thoughts to slowly creep in. When they do, I immediately turn toward God and give it back to him. That’s how I keep my freedom in forgiveness. When I go to Jesus, give it to Him, and ask him to replace it, He does. Thank you, Jesus.
Who Do You Need to Forgive?
Who do you need to forgive? When will you do it? I suggest you do it now. Don’t let one more minute, hour, or day go by holding onto the pain and separation from God. Ask spiritual help from the one who knows all and is always in control. Would love to hear your story of forgiveness. If you’d like to share it with someone, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Named changed to protect her identity.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and ministry. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at email@example.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com