Oh, the power in those three little words!
I am a survivor of child abuse. I lived in a home with a parent who drank alcohol and appeared to be angry all the time. As a child I didn’t understand why there was so much anger, shouting and physical abuse. I just lived with it. I thought I was to blame -- maybe something I did or said led to the anger. I wondered why I was constantly rejected and hurt by one of the people God put on this earth to love me and cherish me and protect me? Maybe if I just became invisible. And so I did.
Years later, as a teenager, I tried to reconnect with that parent after a nasty divorce. I visited jail thinking I was going to “save” my parent and then love would come. “Surely now,” I thought, “With all I have accomplished in school, love and acceptance will come.” To my anguish, no love came.
What I came to know and understand as a young adult was that that person was not able to love me, not able to do his job as a loving and nurturing parent because of alcoholism and anger. Love must start with loving yourself before it can flow freely out to others – and there wasn’t any. I decided to just “deal with it” and thought I was “handling the pain” just fine. I became a “stuffer.”
In my early 30’s, a growing and maturing believer in Jesus Christ, the Lord revealed to me that due to the “anger, resentment and un-forgiveness” I was harboring in my heart toward this person, there was a barrier to my relationship with God. He told me it was time to “forgive my abuser.” I was a little shocked. “Me forgive? Why?” I asked God, “I mean, you know what happened, you saw, that’s not fair to ask me to forgive the hideous things that were done.”
After some meditating on what God was requiring me to do and reading His word about forgiveness, I realized what I was sensing was absolutely true and biblical. Matthew 6:14-15 says, "In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part.” Wow, so true. “But how God? How do I forgive, I can’t do it on my own, “I asked. He said, “Of course you can’t, but you can do all things with my power.”
That’s when the healing began. I wrote a letter to my abuser, forgiving and releasing the power un-forgiveness had over me. The healing began instantly. In my letter, I explained I hated the alcoholism and what it robbed me of as a child; but I didn’t hate them. I said I loved them and forgave them and am praying for them to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s the only way to a life of freedom from the strongholds in our lives.
I can honestly say I forgive them. I pray daily for them to come to know Christ. I hate alcoholism and anger and what it took from me as a child. But it’s OK to hate the things that God hates. Hate the sin, but love the sinner.
In Matthew 18: 20-22, Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" Jesus said “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
My abuser needed to hear those words just as much as I needed to say them. There is healing and power in the words “I forgive you.” Who do you need to tell that to and set free?