Forgive & Forget
My story is one that is all too familiar to many—growing up as a girl from all over, searching for community and meaning in different places, enduring under the hand of someone who was not who he appeared to be, and longing for freedom. I lived a life that, at the time, an outsider would assume was right up next to perfect. But in our home things were rather opposite, leaving the this girl seeking escape. Escape came in the form of moving across the country for college and finding some of that longed-for community. The figurative wounds began to scar over and life began to feel different.
But the thing about wounds and scars is that even when a wound will begin to heal over, deeper down it is still infected. What looks imperfectly smoothish on the surface hides something that is unhealed and inflamed underneath. I came into college actively fighting the old messages routinely flung my way in my past. Fighting to believe that I’m not “worthless.” I’m not “stupid.” I’m not “unlovable.” As those hidden wounds flared though, my declarations faded into questioning: Am I worthless? Can I actually succeed? Will anyone ever love someone like me?
It’s been a journey. I spent time learning from an amazing mentor, a great counselor, and caring friends. But even yet, my anger and doubt held onto me tight. Soon after I stumbled upon Summit, I found myself on the doorstep of reGROUP with the full knowledge that my life was not working.
I’m not going to lie to you—reGROUP is a beast. It’s not fun at all, and it’s painful, and it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done to care for myself. I slowly and excruciatingly reopened each of those old, unhealed wounds to begin the process of healing from the inside out, even when every instinct I had was to throw a BandAid on them and move along. But I so deeply desired freedom, and so I kept with it.
One of the hardest things for me to figure out was what forgiveness meant for me. I was uninterested in the prevalent understanding of forgiveness that requires one to “forgive and forget” and to move along like nothing had ever happened. On top of this, a significant thing my reGROUP journey had revealed was how mind-numbingly livid I was at God, above all, for allowing things to happen as they did. I found myself questioning a God who allowed evil to play out as he watched on.
I remember describing this feeling to my reGROUP sponsor after relaying how angry the book of Job made me, as it seemed to confirm my view of a distant and uncaring God. I described feeling like I was sitting in an old burned out house all alone, devastated by my losses. My sponsor listened quietly and then thoughtfully offered my choices. I could walk away, let myself forget Christianity and its prioritizing of forgiveness and wait to see if God pursued me still. Or I could, as my sponsor put it, “walk out of that burned out house and choose something better.” I could actually talk to God about my wounds and start looking at what it would mean for me to “forgive” God for the things that have happened to me.
I was struck by a few things. 1) that both scenarios involved God’s pursuit of me, and 2) that even though God’s will is perfect and good, I needed to explore what “forgiving” God looked like for me. While I may never understand the whys of my past, my holding onto my pain and bitterness was only making me miserable and into someone I didn’t care to be. Healing would involve opening up my clenched fists of rage little by little, even when my rage was justified.
I’m still on this journey. My anger isn’t totally gone, but it has changed form and over time hurts a little less. I don’t know that it will ever be completely gone, and I think that’s OK because I know that God hates injustice too. God’s will in our lives was once described to me as the weaving of an enormous tapestry, and we live our lives on the backside of it with a close up view of all the knots and cut threads and the mess. But someday—one sweet day—we’ll be able to stand beside God to view the completed masterpiece, all held together by the mess behind it. And in the end, the hope of that view is what I cling to.