“My frau is a Jezebel. She fornicated with Samuel Beachy before we got hitched, then killed their unborn boppli…” He scowled.
“I see.” Jonathan scratched his beard, “So she has not asked for forgiveness?”
“Yet you choose not to forgive?”
“How can a person forgive something like that, Jonathan?” Christian’s voice rose. “If it were your frau, would you forgive her?”
“It would be difficult but, ja, I would. We must follow Christ’s example. Do you think it was easy for Him to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross?”
“Nay, but I am not Christ. He was perfect.”
“Perfect, ja, but a man, like us. It wasn’t any easier for Him.”
~ from An Unforgivable Secret by J.E.B. Spredemann
Forgiveness, where the debtor is truly sorry, is not optional. It’s different when the debtor is defiantly in denial of what they have done (or when they pretend to be sorry but do the same destructive things over and over), but even then, by choosing to hang onto anger and bitterness and resentment – all aspects of unforgiveness – in the end I hurt myself more. I choose to let go, by grace, because I don’t want to live that way (doesn’t mean I accept those who abused me with open arms, just that it no longer eats away at me).
Recently I have been thinking of the time when, as a 12-year-old, I decided to no longer eat meat. I was at the time a victim of ongoing sexual, physical and emotional abuse that remained hidden from everyone else. The abuser said that if I told anyone he would kill my parents. He also made sure I believed that other people saw me as a liar. I wasn’t so sure about that last one, and became scrupulous about telling the absolute truth. But the threat to my parents was what held me. That and the inability to put into words the Unspeakable.
I looked at the chunk of beef in the burger I was eating one sunny afternoon as my best friend and I walked round the local summer fête, two little girls in matching dresses. I thought of the cow that had once been, before it became my lunch. I thought of the care shown to the creature as it was born and raised, and I thought of the ultimate betrayal that occurred in the act of slaughter. I empathised with the cow. Its life was a lie. I couldn’t eat meat after that.
A decade later I was in an abusive marriage, slowly becoming cut off from my friends and family and pregnant with my first child. I had almost let go of the hope that life could be anything other than awful, and I began eating meat again. Saving the lives of cows and pigs didn’t seem worth the effort. It made no difference what I did in any aspect of my life. Over the next decade I gradually came to the conclusion that my needs did not matter. My hopes, my dreams were carefully locked away. It was a lot less painful not to have any. Besides, I did not matter. But I still knew that my children mattered.
I am not sure why these things seem intrinsically linked in my head, but I do know that unforgiveness eats away at you from the inside. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. It’s not a reason to lay oneself open to more abuse. Forgiveness occurs when I align my will with that of God, letting go of the things that come between us. Jesus taught me that life with Him turns everything upside down and inside out – and that includes suffering. How I love following this radical Saviour! I am so thankful for the chance to belong to the God of Great Love.
I pray that if you, dear reader, are struggling with forgiveness, or struggling to let go of bitterness, you are able to put your hand in His, and learn to walk Jesus’ way. There’s no other life worth living. He will always carry your burdens. He will never let you go.
Thanks for reading. If you would like to ask for specific prayer, please do comment below. Even if you don’t need some prayer, I love to read what people have to say and I am so thankful when folk take the time to comment.