Three Not-So-Small Words
Last night was a difficult one for me. In my dreams I was once again haunted by memories of my former cult leader and his actions which stole my childhood innocence. As I finally rose from my bed at noon I felt so much heaviness over me.
But then, I witnessed something beautiful: a video of Brandt Jean telling the woman who was just convicted of murdering his brother, “I forgive you”. The scene that unfolded in that courtroom yesterday was a picture of the Gospel in all its raw, pure, and holy authenticity. In April of 2016, just six months into extensive therapy, I wrote a 10,000 word, ten page letter to my former cult leader. I had done the hard work of processing the abuse and was I finally ready to release the weight his sin which had been slowly crushing me for years.
In the letter I detailed every thing this man had done to me and how lost and betrayed I felt. And then, in my closing, spoke my freedom for the first time with the three most powerful words in existence: “I forgive you.”
Though my letter was part of discovery in the lawsuit and has been privately shared with several people, no part of it has ever been published online.
I’m still not ready to release the entire letter, as it details parts of my story that I’m not ready to publicly share. I’m not trying to hide anything, but part of healing is recognizing that one gets to decide which parts of their story remain private, and which parts are made public.
So today I’m choosing to publish the closing of the letter, so I may be reminded again not only of what forgiveness looks like but to remember of how God continues to redeem the ashes.
Written April, 2016
You have done much damage in my life, Bill. I’ve lived with pain, fear, nightmares, guilt, shame, physical illness, and much, much more. You have worked very hard to destroy me and my faith in God. You preyed on an innocent little girl filled with a strong faith, and tore me down to a broken, hurting woman, with a fear of trusting anyone and riddled with emotional scars.
But do you know what? What you have meant for evil, God has meant for good. God saw that broken little girl and scooped her up into His arms and LOVED her. Not a selfish love like you once tried with me. No, a true love only the creator of the world is capable of. He created me and loves me for who I am.
I now see that all those things you once said about me, all the grooming words and flattery, were not entirely lies. But rather, those words are indeed how God sees me.
I AM special.
I AM beautiful.
I AM cherished.
I AM His.
God has also forgiven me. For all that I’ve ever done, and ever will do. For that reason, I can say these words.
I forgive you.
Forgiveness is not releasing someone of their responsibility. It is not forgetting. It is simply a transfer. It is transferring over someone to God so that He can do His will with that person.
I forgive you, Bill, not to release you from the accountability of your sin, but to release me from the weight of it.
You have sinned greatly, Bill, and you will be judged, for we serve a God of justice. One day, you will stand before the throne of God and be forced to give an account of your actions. There will be no blame shifting or excuses. You will have no way to defend yourself. The truth will be made known and your punishment carried out.
But as much as I pray for justice, I do also pray that in the midst of that justice, you may see and be humbled by the mercy and grace of Jesus. I ask this on your behalf not because you deserve it, but simply because Jesus has extended His grace and mercy to me, over and over.
Meanwhile, I take the burden of your actions against me off of my shoulders and place it on God’s. I no longer carry the pain, guilt or shame you put upon me. I am no longer your slave, your captive, or your emotional concubine.
I am free.
Free from the pain and free from the shame.
This doesn’t mean I will forget, for there will always be scars and triggers. However, when I look at them, I will be reminded of the LOVE that my heavenly Father has for me and of His GRACE. Two things you were never capable of.
See you on the other side,