Forgiveness is a Tough Talk

Forgiveness. Such a hard thing to do. Forgiveness requires letting go of wrongs done. Hurts and pains, rejection, betrayal, of innocence lost. Forgiveness is a big deal. In his book called Forgive and Forget, Lewis B. Smedes wrote, "When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself." I am realizing this more and more, how when we hold on to the balls of anger or hurt, we bind up our own freedom and our own life. We can't live freely with these shackles that chain us to the past. We have to let go. But letting go sucks. Nobody wants to do that. It's not a fun filled, easy exercise. And it is not just painful either. When you have something to forgive, it usually entails something with deep roots that have laid root into our beings. Usually these things that are in need of forgiveness are greatly part of why we are the people that we have so far become. And yet, the lack of forgiveness stunts our growth and development, like a vine trapping us beneath the soil, or like a weight that holds us beneath water. 

Forgiveness is part of the language of life. Letting go is the answer to freedom. Letting God, is the answer to new life, growth, and restoration. Yet forgiveness is so hard. And more than that, no one wants to do it. I know I don't. I know I haven't. For years I have been aware of this affliction. The affliction being, my refusal to forgive. I have been aware of the need, but my hurts were too deep. Too upsetting to simply...forgive. But what I understand on a more fluid level now, is that the prisoner we keep by not forgiving, is ourselves. I see that now. And I feel it in my heart and soul.

I am not the type of woman who holds on to grudges or never forgets. I do forgive, all the time, often. But there are some things that are too deep to allow that sort of grace for. Some things that "letting it off the hook", just wont do. 

I grew up in the Terrace Apartments in Tustin off of Redhill and Walnut. I lived there for about 12 years of my childhood. For a long time, my neighbors lived directly to the left of us. They became like a haven for me as I reached my preteen years. I would frequently go to their house, and eventually began to attend church with them. We drove all the way to Rancho Cucamonga for church. But it was an escape from the chaos and depression of my house. They were my haven. My friends whom I trusted. They were an older couple, in their 50's. They had grown kids that lived in their house who were in their 30's, all the woman's children. The man had gotten out of prison and had a testimony he shared about how God saved him from the pits of darkness. He had tattoos over his arms and fingers and hands, and told his story with them. He talked a good talk about how Jesus saved him. He called my parents "brother and sister". He and his wife eventually moved to a house close to the church in Rancho Cucamonga, as part of some ministry they were helping with. Actually I don't think it was a ministry, but they lived there for church purposes. 

I was around 15 years old, when a boy I liked a lot ended up hurting me. I was crushed. I went to this couple for consoling, and ended up talking on the phone with the man. He began telling me things and talking to me in ways that were questionable. I was suspicious, and treaded on carefully. He began to ask to see me alone. He asked me if I wore thongs and said he wanted me to take pictures of myself in a mini skirt. He told me not to tell anyone about it and certainly not his wife. I asked him, "What about God?" He was caught off guard with that. 

I never met him alone. I never intended to. I just let a few conversations happen so that I could be sure that he was the pedophile I was realizing him to be. I told my friend at the church, who told me that actually, they had discovered that pornography was ordered on the cable box at the house this couple maintained for the church that they were staying at. 

I was horrified and betrayed. This man and his wife knew me since I was a child. They were at least in their mid 50's. I trusted them like they were a second set of parents. And this man tried to take advantage of a 15 year old girl who was vulnerable and upset from a boy. He asked to see me alone. To take pictures of me in a mini skirt. I acted stupid when he said these things, as if I didn't know what he meant. I even pretended that I didn't know what a thong was and that I thought he meant flip flops. Part of me just could not believe what was happening. But once I was certain, I told his wife on the phone. I told her everything. 

The next day, my mom was on the phone with them. I picked up the receiver and heard what he was saying to my mother about me. He said I was a sick little girl he was just trying to help. I lost it. I screamed at him as hard and as much as I could. He was lying, and he was saying that I was a sick little girl. Making it up. I think I am still angry about this. You know why I haven't said their names in this blog? Because they don't deserve to be named. This man is like filth to me. Have I forgiven? No. Do I need to for my good? Yes. And is this something God is prepping me for? I think so. 

This is just one of many stories I have that I am actually willing to share here. The others, probably not. But you know, all of it is in need of the bath of forgiveness. Because I will be washed off from all of this grime once I do. For so long, I just couldn't. But I realize this harms only me. Not them. And for the longest time, I thought that if I were to see them again, I would just run and hide. I could not look at his face again without wanting to see him be run over by a bus. Or shot. I don't want to see his face ever again. And yet I am aware, in this example, of my deep need to forgive. And maybe that starts with saying his name here. Fred. It almost seems petty to be angry about him still. But I am. It's not like I think about this very often, but when I do, I am angry. And this is destructive only for myself. 

Maybe one day, sooner than later, I will write another blog of how I did it. How I let go. How I forgave. But as of now, this is just a tale as to part of my journey and recognition of the intrinsic value and importance of forgiveness. And why it is so important to God, for our good. 

Forgiveness is a choice. Maybe forgiveness looks like making this choice, to forgive people who take advantage of little girls. Or others, who ruin childhoods. It is a tall order. But you know what? It is apart of God's grace that we are to abide in for our own good. I think that this is apart of what it means when Soren Kierkegaard says, "And now, with God's help, I shall become myself". With God, there is freedom. But I think that first, we must chose to forgive our perpetrators and wrong doers. Because it only enslaves us not to. 

Yes, Amen to that.