I keep being blown away by the stories in this forgiveness series. Today’s is miraculous – but Jen has done plenty of everyday forgiving too, as she outlines. I’m guessing that the timing for this blog might be special for someone today…
I forgave by faith.
Yet what happened next astounded even me….
I believe the year was 1994 and I was 25 years old. Without going into unnecessary details, the back story was that a few years prior I had begun having flashbacks of being molested by a neighbour when I was a child. Afterwards he knelt next to my bed and quietly said in my ear, ‘If you tell anyone what happened I will kill you. I will follow you and I will kill you.’
I believed him.
So I kept quiet.
Until that day, when the flashbacks opened up a door in my memory I didn’t even know existed.
I could not keep silent any longer.
Confused, scared (petrified) and ashamed, I began the journey of healing. I had a wonderful counsellor who journeyed with me each step of the way. But one day what I had been dreading happened and she broached the subject of forgiveness.
I was a pastor; I knew it was the right thing to do, the biblical thing to do, but how could I forgive him? I was SIX when it happened. The anger I felt toward him bordered on rage and the disgust was palpable.
But one drive home changed everything.
Living about 45 minutes from the counsellor’s office gave me time to process our sessions before entering the ‘real world’ again. On one of these return journeys I was suddenly overcome by the thought that this man was not saved and was heading toward an eternity without God. I cannot describe what happened next except that I was overwhelmed with an urge to pray for his salvation, to the point of crying and pleading with heartfelt tears for God to save him and set him free.
This cry from my heart came by the grace of God; it had nothing to do with me working up any forgiveness, only the obedience to follow the leading from God to pray. I suddenly felt ‘released’ from the burden and, from memory, that was the last time I prayed like that for him.
For space I won’t go into further details, except to say after that day I began working through my anger and came to a place of complete forgiveness, actually feeling pity in place of rage.
I never felt the urge to confront him during counselling but just over two years from that first moment when I chose forgiveness and prayer over bitterness and anger, I sensed Holy Spirit saying it was time.
Due to circumstances out of my control, the moment came via a telephone call. I read him a letter I had written and at the end I explained how I had forgiven him because of the forgiveness I had received through Jesus Christ.
After I finished speaking there was only deafening silence.
Expecting the next sound to be the click of a line going dead, I wasn’t prepared for what actually happened…
He very quietly squeaked out: “I’m so sorry. I am … so …. sorry.”
Now I was the one rendered silent.
He then uttered words which changed me forever.
He explained that two years prior to this he was passing a church and had the sudden urge to drive in the driveway and speak to the pastor, asking him how to get right with God.
He surrendered his life to Christ that day.
He was a believer. He was … my brother in Christ.
I’ll never be able to prove that the overwhelming urge I felt to pray for him and his salvation two years before was the same moment that he pulled in to the church car park, but to this day I believe it was.
And twenty years later, the fact that we will share eternity together still brings tears of joy to my eyes.
I am aware that not all stories end this way; in fact, very few of them have an ending like mine.
But the truth is that I wasn’t freed when he apologised; I was freed when I forgave.
I wasn’t freed when he apologised; I was freed when I forgave.
And I could only have forgiven him completely by God’s redeeming grace. Grace which is freely available to all of us whenever we ask for it.
Your story may be different.
Since that time I have had to forgive some deeply painful choices made by others, and have needed forgiveness for my own wrong choices, and sadly not all have ended as ‘textbook’ as that one.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says in part “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in my weakness.” Paul goes on to say he will boast in his weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on him.
You see, the focus isn’t so much on our weakness as it is on Christ’s power and sufficient grace.
In our inability, He is able. For our weakness, He gives strength.
The key called grace is what opens the door to forgiveness.
And it is through that door our tears are wiped dry and our freedom stands waiting.
Even if it’s 25 years later.
Jen Baker is a speaker, author and leader who loves seeing the Holy Spirit and the Word change atmospheres, creating personal and corporate impact. Most often described as ‘inspiring,’ she previously sold all in America to follow the call of God to England where she’s been a pastor, director and consultant working with the local church and several anti-trafficking charities. She has a heart for the nations … but a home in London.