One winter day in January 2004, my son Kyle asked me to go to the track with him and run. He was a sprinter on his high school track team and he wanted to practice. Of course I would go with him! I was delighted that he desired to spend time with me!
When we arrived we began to stretch down on the field. It was cold and there was much snow on the ground. As I rose up from a stretch, a snowball smacked the side of my head. I was startled, then angry…very, very angry. I looked towards my handsome son and saw him with a teasing grin. And then I vomited…with words of rage. “Don’t you ever do that again! Who do you think you are? I can’t believe you did that!” Then I took off running.
I didn’t go far, because when you are livid it’s hard to breathe. I was livid and sprinting, so I barely made it two hundred yards. Stopping abruptly I yelled, “GET IN THE CAR NOW! WE ARE GOING HOME!” My always respectful and obedient son did as I commanded without a word.
After I parked in the garage, Kyle quietly got out of the car but I stayed seated. I sat there for several minutes and sobbed, crying out, “Why, God??? Why did I hurt my son??? He has never caused me or anyone else any trouble his entire life, and I just attacked him! He is so good and kind! Why did I hurt my beloved son???
Because you have an unforgiving heart.
Oh… I knew exactly what God meant. I knew exactly who I had not forgiven. Every one of them. And I knew that if I was going to heal from past wounds, I needed to forgive my offenders. Now.
Flashback to 1974 – I was eleven and in seventh grade, having started school ayear earlier than most. My older brothers and sisters were either graduated or in high school at the time, so I was alone. For some reason I became the target of Mike, the school bully. He singled me out. He would touch me inappropriately while others watched. After a while, they joined in. And if they weren’t doing that, they would punch and kick me, or throw me up against the red brick walls with my arm twisted behind my back. This went on for two years.
Are you wondering why I didn’t seek help? I did. Often. We had portable buildings to handle the overflow of students, and my last period class was in a portable near the football field house. Daily I would ask my teacher if I could be released early from class, for I wanted to get a head start on this bully by running into the safety of the school building. My teacher would always laugh and he’d say the same thing, “Oh, Carol! He just likes you!” So the bell would ring and the chase began…and one day the thirty-plus boys from the field house decided to join in. They encircled me and stole precious items – a birthstone ring from my mom and a beautiful gemstone bracelet my dad had brought me from Vietnam. Then they began to touch me. All the while the other students passed us by. And the teacher did nothing. Nor did the principle. This was how every afternoon played out.
One day when my brother had come to pick me up from school, he saw me running and asked why, but I did not tell him. Once when I had considered telling my family, I saw a strange image that I can still see quite vividly – it was an image of my mother and us six children going to see my dad in prison. It terrified me. Then I heard a voice say, “He’s in prison because he killed Mike. This is all your fault.” (I’ve since learned that this vision was demonically inspired to keep me quiet, so that the abuse would continue.)
So I remained silent and tried to cope by becoming my own protector. I recall trying to make myself ugly by cussing. I was a kind and quiet child who would never even consider cussing! But I reasoned that it would make me appear ugly and mean, so the boys just might leave me alone. It didn’t work. The enemy simply used it as a tool to feed the anger that was already brewing inside. The ugly words I spoke reflected the pain in my soul.
This continued on during junior high and the anger grew to hate, and the hate to rage. I developed a sincere hate for men and throughout the years it intensified. Life continued on, as did more abuses and inappropriate behavior by a coach, employer, co-workers and even doctors. So when I was 18, my sister suggested that I see a counselor to help me deal with the rage. But on the second visit the counselor suggested that what I needed was a tender relationship with a man, so he offered to have sex with me as therapy. I stood up and stepped close, all 100 pounds of me, and I said things to him that I will not repeat. Then I walked out. He had just confirmed what I believed to be true – no man could be trusted. At that point, the hate I felt towards men became a demonic stronghold. This hate had become murderous.
“Look after each other so that none of you fail to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15 speaks of a root of bitterness that will corrupt many. If we choose to reject the grace of God and allow offense and bitterness to have it’s way in our heart (soul), then we will reap corruption. Proverbs tells us to guard our heart, for it determines the course of our life. I did not guard my heart. Instead I continually fed this hate I had for men by telling whomever would listen, “If I could…I would place every man on an island, put a gun to his head…and I would gladly pull the trigger on each and every one.” I let this image replay over and over in my mind. And it was this murderous rage that I brought into my marriage and motherhood. Not good.
My loving dad and brothers were exempt from this anger, and when my beautiful son Kyle was born, he was exempt as well. Until the snowball. Then all this hate and murderous rage was vomited onto my son. I had been abused, and now I was the abuser. What had laid dormant for a season was now exposed. And my precious son that never, ever caused me a moment of grief became the target of my wrath. I was crushed that I had caused him pain. It was then that I vowed that I would never hurt anyone again. Ever.
So when the Lord told me that I had an unforgiving heart, I knew what I needed to do. I wrote a letter to Mike and told him that I forgave him. (I knew that I would never mail it, for he was in Huntsville prison at the time, having assaulted a man with a knife.) The letter was not just about forgiving Mike, but it represented all who had offended me – the other students, principals and teachers that never came to my aid, the counselor, co-workers… I had drawn a line and said that I was choosing to forgive all that had hurt me, and even those that would do so in the future. I decided to wipe the slate clean and to “keep current” with offenses – what I mean by keeping current is that if I ever feel offended, I chose to forgive immediately! I will not allow an offense to take root and make my heart bitter ever again. I have chosen to forgive because God has forgiven me. And the result of this action I took? Peace…genuine peace. Joy…unspeakable joy! And a heart full of love for others. Oh, the fruit of forgiveness is sweet indeed!
Brothers and sisters, forgiveness is not easy! It took me six months of declaring each morning, “Mike, I choose to forgive you! And I ask God to bless you this day.” Then one glorious morning I woke up and realized that I had truly forgiven my offenders. My soul was free indeed! Did I feel like forgiving and blessing my offenders? NO WAY! At first I could barely get the words out of my mouth. My flesh wanted to curse them again! But we are not called to live by our flesh, but by faith. Faith that a supernatural transaction is taking place as we speak words of life (blessing) instead of words of death (curses)! It’s trusting that God’s Word is true, and knowing that forgiveness will free your soul! God used my son and a snowball to set this captive free!
Is there someone that you need to forgive today?
“…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” Luke 23:34
(How do we forgive when we want to retaliate instead? Part 2 coming soon! Be sure to subscribe to my blog on the bottom of the HOME page so you don’t miss it!)
CHOOSE TO FORGIVE!