As I sat cradled in the branches of the oak tree late that summer afternoon over twenty years ago, forgiveness was the last thing on my mind. Confusion, shame, fear…all of these emotions stirred within, creating a strange combination that made me want to vomit. A piece of my innocence was stolen that day. What happened affected how I would look at men and their advances. It would instill fear in my heart when my future children were absent from my watchful eye. I was changed in a way I never imagined or desired.
For the better part of my life, I sought answers. Most of the places I looked led me down a path further from the truth than where I began. I tried to numb the feelings of betrayal.
After years of trying to hide, to forget, to avoid any connection to my Maker, I finally turned to the Church for some answers. Initially, I found more uncertainty and doubt than comfort.
When trying to recover from an act against you which is so heinous you can barely speak of it, phrases like “seventy times seven” feel like a wet blanket. Although scriptural, in the first stages of healing they do not mend an aching soul or answer unresolved questions like “how,” “why” and “what does it look like?”
What I needed to hear was that I was loved. That’s it. That what happened was not because God had turned his back or forgotten the little girl that sat crying under wind swept boughs that afternoon. I needed an inkling of the depth and width embodied in “agape.”
After much time and restoration, I found a church where I grew and found compassion. God led me to some verses that changed my perspective on forgiveness. What I discovered is that to forgive didn’t mean what I thought it did. In Romans Paul recounts the words of the Lord, saying, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19 NIV
Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the evil done to me, but places its burden in hands that bled so that I may be set free.
Free from shame and bitterness. Free from anger.
Although I’ll never know whether my aggressor repented or not, through prayer, God changed my heart toward him in a way only He is capable of doing. I know he had access to the same throne of grace I come to day after day.
It is a process that does not happen overnight, but as God is my Strength, my Healer and Redeemer, it is possible to forgive the unforgivable.
He laments with you. He is your Advocate.
He will turn your oak of shame into an oak of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), rooted deep in the abounding love of the One who sets captives free.