When it comes to forgiveness, everyone is different. I love Lynne’s story for her honesty and how she tells the gradual nature of her becoming free from carrying someone else’s sins, as she puts it so aptly. I continue to be humbled and grateful for the bravery displayed by the contributors to this series, such as Lynne.
There I was, standing in a spot where his grave might have been, and I’m griping tightly onto an A4 piece of paper. A piece of paper that held the truth of what actually happened to me during four years when I grew up too quickly.
Looking around, all I see is green grass with very few markings of where graves could be. I expected to see at least a head stone with his name etched into it… something that would make it real. But there was nothing. Only little numbered markers dotted around declaring where each person is buried. With there being no grave stone or a recognisable grave, I concluded that he had no meaning to his life.
Standing there, I remember clearly when my mother told me, 21 years earlier, that he had passed away. It was four months after he was arrested. He hadn’t even reached the first hearing of his trial.
My memories of that day are vivid. I was so angry that he had “escaped” his prison sentence, and I felt betrayed because he was now “free”. I also remember feeling relieved. He was dead… and I was glad. I hoped that he had met God at the pearly gates of heaven and that he was sent straight to rot in hell.
I know, I know and I know. This sounds very unchristian. I am fully aware of that. However, this was how I felt towards the man who had sexually abused me for four years. After all, he took away my childhood.
I wanted him to suffer so much for the pain and hurt that he caused me. I wanted him to feel the pain that I felt…Not just in those four years, but the years afterwards that I had to endure I as tried to come to terms with what I went through.
When I stood at the graveside with my mum on one side and my husband on the other, I held on to that piece of paper as though it was part of me. This piece of paper held all the truth of every single detail that he did to me.
Every. Single. Detail.
You see, when I was 11 I was too scared and too ashamed to voice what truly happened to me. No-one EVER got the full truth, and that truth had been inside me for 21 years. At the graveside, I finally let it all out… And then I burnt it. In that moment, the spirit of condemnation left my body and I was free.
Four years later, I look back and I question myself if I have still forgiven my abuser – just in case my time at the grave was a passing moment. The honest answer is yes! I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone, but I wouldn’t change what I went through either. I no longer feel shame over what I had endured and I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, that I have no regrets about my past.
I am proud of who I am today.
Forgiving my abuser did not mean what he did to me was right. It also does not mean that I would get my childhood back. Instead, forgiving him meant that I could move forward with my life. I have learnt that unforgiveness keeps us locked in to anger, resentment, bitterness and hurt. It keeps us apart from Jesus.
I didn’t get to the point of forgiveness lightly and reaching it wasn’t one of these “aha” moments when something clicked into place. Rather it took me 21 years that lead to the moment at his grave, of sorting through a mountain of emotional mess, through counselling and reading various books, to reach the point where I wanted to be free from the chains of unforgiveness. I no longer wanted to carry the burden of someone else’s sin.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
I believe that forgiveness is necessary in order to move forward, but it can only be done when you are ready to do so. No-one should be forced to forgive someone else if they are not ready. It doesn’t matter how long it takes either… 2 years or 21 years… but when it happens? Forgiveness is freeing.
Lynne Cole is a full-time working, married mother to 3 gorgeous children…two girls (aged 8 and 7) and a little man (aged 5). She blogs in the free time that she has, which is very little! She believes that a broken past does not mean a broken future and that we are all beautiful despite what we have been through. Her desire is that she is able to give people a little encouragement and hope through what she writes. She writes from the heart, honestly, about anything… things that have happened in the past, what she is going through right now and what she hopes for the future.