Thursday, March 28, 2013

Forgiveness brings healing...

It is with just a little fear and trepidation that I share a bit of my story with you today. I've never shared this part of my life anywhere outside my family and a few close friends. Until recently, I'm sure I would have been terrified by the thought of posting it online. But this part of my story is about God and the healing and freedom he brings, so I can't keep it quiet any longer.

Growing up, my family moved around a lot as my dad changed jobs. I went to five elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. I normally found friends quickly at a new school, but when we moved from a small town in Iowa to Sacramento, California, between my seventh and eighth grade years, things were different. I don’t know what it was, but I found new relationships difficult after this move. Maybe I was overwhelmed by the big city atmosphere or maybe it was because middle school is just plain awkward. Whatever the reason, it took longer to find peers to associate with.

Into that void stepped a man who, upon coming to our church, took charge of the youth group. He voluntarily spent time with us, teaching our Sunday School class and organizing fun events. I took to this man and we became friends.  We did lots of stuff together. He came to the school from time to time and took me out to lunch at a nearby fast food restaurant.

After a few months, this man’s mom kicked him out of her house. That’s what he told us anyway. I’m not sure now whether he was telling the truth or not. To make a long story short, my parents allowed him to move into our house.

Shortly after he came under our roof, he began visiting me at night when everyone was a sleep. He would ask if he could do things that I wasn’t sure he should do, but I was afraid of losing his friendship so I went along with his requests. For a little over a year, I was sexually and emotionally abused by this man in my own home. Whenever he sensed I was getting uncomfortable with what he was doing, he would threaten to kill himself if I ever told anyone what he was doing.

Finally, one day after he had asked me if he could do something that I found repulsive, I told my mom what had been taking place. That ended the sexual abuse, but didn’t quite completely end the emotional abuse. The last thing he said to me was, “I’ll come back for you when you turn 18.” That one sentence caused me to live in fear for years.

Less than a year after the end of this relationship, we moved back to Iowa. Just after we arrived, I went to summer camp and there, for some reason, I decided it was time to tell someone outside of my family what had happened. My poor counselor was shocked and not exactly sure what to do with this kid that kept yelling angrily, over and over, “I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!”

For the next two or three years, I lived with seething anger that I kept buried in my heart. Repressing it led to depression. Fear was there too. I was 18 and I was terrified when I thought that this man might reenter my life.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years at college, I ran across these words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15, “But if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I realized I was in serious trouble with God. I had not forgiven my abuser. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I chose to do so that day. That choice was the beginning of my healing.

Over the next few years, God brought a series of people into my life, people who counseled with me and prayed with me till I was set free from my anger. I remember the day I knew I had what God wanted for me. I prayed and the burden was lifted. I was no longer angry. The chains of bitterness and hatred that had wrapped themselves around my heart were broken. I was free!

I am grateful to God for all the work he has done in my heart. I want nothing more than for each of you to find the freedom I have found in Jesus. Today, when I think of the man who molested me, I pray for him. I want nothing less than his presence with me in heaven. I pray that God will save him through faith in Jesus and set him free from his sin so that he and I can worship before God’s throne together for eternity.
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