She was 28 years old when she walked into the room known as the community room. She had found peace and comfort in those rooms for several weeks searching for a way to remain sober, but this particular night she found heartache, anger, resentment, and fear deep in her heart.
The topic, FORGIVENESS.
The room was packed with more ladies than she could count.
The leader of the Bible Study quoted scripture after scripture about forgiveness. With each verse she could feel her heart ripping apart. The pain was unreal and it hurt for her to breathe.
With each verse her mind raced.
With each verse, she remembered her life as an 11 year old child.
What seemed like hours was only seconds as the memories flooded in –
That once child remembered the wake up calls as soon as the garage door opened at 5 a.m. when her dad left for work and she had to begin pulling weeds and cleaning the pool.
That once child had to remember the salt being added in the grits box because the woman thought the child used too much salt so she decided to pour a container of salt in the grits. She then made the child eat it.
That once child had to relive the locked food cabinets because the woman thought the child was too fat.
That once child had to relive not being given lunch money and begging for food.
That once child had to relive eating molded food out of the garbage can because she was so hungry.
That once child had to remember getting caught and confronted about eating out of the trash.
That once child remembered she chose to steal candy bars and because of that one bad decision that once child had to relive having her father beating her morning and night with a leather belt that carried a heavy brass Marine Corps buckle on it. But he wasn’t the only one, the woman did it too.
That once child had to relive wearing the same clothes to school every day because that was another punishment for stealing.
That once child had to relive not being able to eat with the rest of the family and having her meal placed at the bedroom door (after the stealing).
That once child had to relive being asked what kind of pizza she wanted for her birthday, but when she sat down to eat that child was told, “you aren’t allowed to eat with the family. You are supposed to be in your room.”
That once child remembered not receiving birthday gifts that year.
That once child remembered weeping that night because her heart was breaking more than the physical beatings could have ever hurt.
That once child remembered the day her PE Coach, Coach Hess at Horace Mann School in Bradenton, FL saved her life.
That once child remembered the police that night making her grab her ankles with no pants on so they could take pictures of her bottom and legs.
That once child remembered the safety and happiness she found the day she arrived at a children’s home called, “Christian City.”
That once child was happy for the first time in a very long time. That once child who had struggled with much anger and hatred after her parents divorce at ten years of age had taken all that hurt out on her mother, brother, and sister after the divorce. The mom did what she thought was best for the child because all the child wanted was her daddy.
She then heard the words that would push her beyond her capability to control her emotions.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
And she couldn’t keep it in any longer –
With tears pouring out her eyes, she yelled, “I’m sorry, I would rather die and go to hell than ever forgive that woman for what she did to me. I will NEVER forgive her and if that means I can’t be a Christian then so be it” (she wasn’t a believer yet).
As women throughout the room gasped, many spoke out and began to tell the young struggling woman that she had to forgive. The more she heard it the more she shook her head and the angrier she got. The angrier she got the more she cried. It took a power stronger than she for her to not get up and leave that room that night. And as much as she hurt, she knew she needed to stay. At the end of that meeting an elderly woman approached her, Ms. Cora, and told her in the softest, sweetest, gentlest voice, “You have to forgive.” And while the young woman left that night unwilling to except what had to be done, it was that night that God began the healing process in an angry broken heart.
Because the young lady was desperate for a new life, one that did not involve alcohol and drugs, she returned to the support meeting the following week. Upon arriving, Ms. Cora approached her in private and gave her a steno pad of prayers and scripture. The steno pad was full of prayers and scriptures she had prayed to the Lord on this young woman’s behalf. She had prayed the Lord would draw her to Him, that He would heal her heart, that He would show her the need to forgive and deal with the bitterness and anger in her heart.
That was the beginning of healing for me.
Yes, that little girl was me. I tried to make excuses for the woman’s behavior for years. I shouldn’t have lied. I shouldn’t have stolen the candy. Maybe I did use too much salt. But through counseling and guidance I realized, that while my actions did deserve discipline, they didn’t deserve abuse, but more than anything, what I realized was I was an 11 year old child. And she was an adult.
I didn’t want to let go of that anger and hatred though. I wanted that other woman to suffer and as stupid as it sounds, I believed that by holding on to that anger I was keeping her in bondage.
I didn’t know Jesus as Lord of life at that point in time, but God was at work.
I learned what it meant to “give it over to the Lord”. That’s something you hear that a lot in church, you know, “give it to the Lord,” but what I’ve learned is people usually say that when they don’t know what else to say or they don’t want to help you through a particular journey, especially one as stinky as what I was walking through. It is usually used as a cop out, but, in this particular instance, God was showing me what it meant to not only give something over to the Lord, but to surrender to Him fully. And that was the beginning of praying for me – I don’t remember praying before then and I sure didn’t have any idea what to say or how to say what I was trying to say but I knew I could be real with Him. I knew I didn’t have to be fake with Him. And I knew He could take whatever it was I was throwing at Him, so EVERY TIME she would cross my mind, I would be very honest with God. I would tell him, “Lord, I do not want to forgive that woman. I do not want to give her the satisfaction of knowing that she’s off the hook. But if you want me to forgive her then YOU have to do it for me because I don’t know how.”
And that was my prayer for days and weeks and even months.
During that time frame I also asked Jesus to come in to my heart, to forgive me of my sins, and to heal my heart.
I was growing as a believer in Christ, my prayer life was growing, I was studying more and more, then one day I realized I hadn’t thought of her but one time that day. And instead of saying I didn’t want to forgive her I sensed the Lord telling me to pray something specific, and it was hard.
I can still remember where I was when I prayed, “Lord, I forgive her.
The more I grew in my faith walk, the more I realized she needed a Savior also.
Now that was hard prayer to pray, I won’t lie. I didn’t want her to have the same freedom I had experienced. But when a person love Jesus, and He has been healing your heart and restoring the relationship between your family, and guiding you through sobriety, and giving you a new life, you can’t help but tell others about it.
Even your enemies.
It was then, when she would come to mind, I would pray for her salvation, that someone would share Jesus with her. There have been many times I have wanted to reach out to her and let her know I had forgiven her, but as I would pray, the Lord whispered, “forgiveness is for your benefit, not hers.”
The first step in the Most Excellent is Humility. That first step is the hardest – admitting all the wrongs that one has done and admitting the need of a Savior in one’s life. It’s never easy because that means a person must recognize they aren’t in control. But it’s the best step a person will ever take.
It has been three days since I led my first class with the Charis House ladies. The Bible Study we are working through, “Goliath Must Fall”. A study about taking down one’s giants in order to walk in freedom.
It has been twenty-three plus years since I’ve heard from her.
Until last night.
If you are reading this, what Jesus did for me He will do for you. He loves you. And He wants to be Lord of your life. I went a little crazy after leaving the children’s home. I started drinking, partying, manipulating people to get what I wanted, stealing, got pregnant out of wedlock, had affair after affair after affair, got evicted from one place after another – all because I chose to drink and party and not be a responsible parent or person. But here is one of my favorite verses, and I’ve personalized it because it applies to my life, it’s found in Titus 3, 3:-8:
At one time Stacey was foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. She lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. BUT when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared to her, he saved her, NOT because of righteous things she had done, but because of HIS mercy. He saved her through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on her generously through Jesus Christ her Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, she might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
What He did for me, He will do for you.
Regardless of what you’ve done.
Regardless of where you have been.
If He can give me a new life and forgive me what I have done, He will do it for you. The Bible says when we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins that they are remembered no more, they are gone – as far as the east is from the west.
I hope you will trust Him today.
And if you are wondering, there is a reason why my subheading to this blog reads, “Finding Spiritual Flowers Amongst Life’s Weeds”. I had been praying for a title for my blog. While I was pulling weeds you came to mind and God whispered, “Pulling Weeds, Finding Spiritual Flowers Amongst Life’s Weeds.” God sure does have a sense of humor, doesn’t He? During the early months of my recovery, He gave me a verse, Genesis 50:20, that brought comfort to my heart. It was then that I knew I was going to be okay. It reads, “What others mean evil against you, God means for good . . .” I’m now leading a Bible Study with a group of women coming out of jail and out of addiction. Many of them have the same hurts I have had to work through. Together, we are all taking down these giants in our lives. Together, we are all finding our place in the Kingdom of God. Being used for God’s glory – it’s the greatest experience of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.