I posted a big piece of my story a few weeks ago. I felt it was important so that I could share the more important part of my story…the healing and moving forward. Sometimes it’s important to know where someone has been and what they have gone through to truly see what has been overcome. Fighting bitterness and forgiving were hugely important to me. I’ve seen what bitterness has done to another woman and I never want to be like her.
The first decision I made when things were coming to a close in my marriage was that I was not going to be bitter no matter what happened. I even told my ex-husband this before he left me. Fighting bitterness is an active process and requires you to make the choice everyday. You have to make it a goal. Some days will be easy and some you may have to scrape the last bit of kindness you can find in your heart to achieve your goal.
I remember recalling this thing I used to do in college…I commuted back and forth from college to my parent’s house quite often and I would get cut-off in traffic A LOT. Whenever I got cut-off, I would pray for the “cutter.” When I prayed for them, (instead of waving a magical finger that seems to make everything better or saying words that would make my Mom want to wash my mouth out with soap) I was able to divert my anger. I was able to do something positive in the place of something negative. I would pray for the driver’s well-being and that they would not cause harm to anyone; that if they were having a bad day it would get better. Just really anything I could think about in the moment.
I carry this thought process over to my fight against bitterness and towards forgiveness. You have to believe that life is not all about you and really look outside of yourself. I had to look at my ex-husband as God’s creation and my brother in Christ. To divert my anger and hurt I prayed for him. When I prayed for him, I would pray that he would find God on his terms. I prayed that God could still use him regardless of what he did to me and that he would still have a platform to share God with others. My prayers were focused on his relationship with God and God’s will for his life.
There were times I would find myself starting to fester anger. I would see his “success” and thought he pooped rainbows. I thought about how unfair our circumstances were. Like he got rewarded for leaving…But really I had no right to think this way. God has provided so much for me and delivered me from a very bad situation. I can’t look at what my ex has and be envious when God has provided so much for me and has made my life more rich and joyful! When I found myself in these angry moods, I had to really turn the prayer on. And every time I did and I do, my heart changes and my anger is diverted.
They say…hate the sin not the sinner. I see the story of David and the terrible things that he did…but yet he was still “a man after God’s own heart.” We all sin and make bad decisions. Throughout the Bible, the men we are to learn from made terrible decisions. Moses was a murderer… David committed adultery and to cover it up killed a man… Peter denied knowing Jesus three times… Paul assisted in stoning the first Christian martyr and had Christians arrested… God can use anyone.
I forgave my ex-husband not because he deserved it and not because he asked for it; he didn’t ask. I honestly don’t know that he cared one way or the other. The Bible does not tell us that we should forgive only those that apologize and ask for forgiveness…it does not say we should only forgive those that deserve it. It says…“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13 NIV…“For 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.” Matthew 6:14-15 NIV…“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
You might be surprised what the path of forgiveness has to offer you individually. Though it may be one of the hardest decisions you choose to make…especially if the other person inflicted harm that has affected you in many ways…it will be the most rewarding choice. When you forgive, you release. You release the hurt and the weight and you gain this overwhelming feeling of freedom. You are not bound by what the other person did to you anymore. Your heart has turned its cheek and you can move on. It is the right of passage into your new life. You take away the power of what the other person did to you and you get to dictate what happens from here on out with a clearer mind and open heart.
Some people say, “I’m not ready to forgive yet”…and I can tell you that there will probably not be a time in which you are “ready.” Forgiveness is an unselfish, undeserved gift. Given our autonomous nature…you can see where you might not ever be ready. The more time you allow between the act and when you forgive…the harder it will be and the more bitterness will be able to settle in.
If you find yourself needing inspiration…I turn you to the cross. Jesus paid the price so that we can be forgiven every single day of our lives. How can we withhold the same undeserved gift? We are asked to do this small thing (in the grand scheme of things) that actually ends up benefitting us.
I think about how short of a season this is in the grand scheme of my entire life. 10 years from now this will not matter. This season in life will be like a bad dream I can barely remember. The big picture needs to be the focus to remain optimistic and motivated to push through the hurt and the pain. You will get over this occurrence in your life.
I wrote my ex-husband a letter and had my lawyer give it to him after mediation was over. The letter contained a cd with one song on it. This is what the letter read:
“Closure is a funny thing. We think if we just get an answer to this one question that we will be satisfied. But closure is never satisfied…there are always more questions. I’m ok with not getting closure. And I want you to know that I forgive you. From the beginning I decided I would not be bitter towards you and it has been a daily process that you have not made very easy…but here we are and I can say I am on a good track to not being bitter towards you.
My hope for you is that you are honest with yourself and you figure out who you are. When you figure that out, I hope that you will be able to be so comfortable with it that you bring that same person with you into every room and atmosphere. It is ok to be who you are…just figure out who that person is. And more than anything I hope you find God on your own terms…I don’t hope you find church…I hope you find and develop a relationship with God. He is amazing.
I’ll leave you with this song…I hope it means something to you one day. (The Weight of Lies – The Avett Brothers)”
Healing is a journey. It takes time. There is much to be seen and digested and if you walk too quickly you may miss something important. Though I would never choose to go through what I have been through again…I cannot help but love this journey God has put me on. I picture open prairies clothed in tall weeds with grandiose mountains as the backdrop. I walk up, down and around mountains. I peer off into the distance from atop the mountains seeing what seems to be forever. I see the most beautiful lakes reflecting crystals from the night sky. I walk through a field of sunflowers and smile. I think of the alone time and the beats of my heart. Each breath is breathed with a purpose and a mission. I think of the other travelers I have met along the way and the conversations we have had. All traveling on different paths going to different destinations but able to provide insight to each other’s individual journeys. There is so much to be learned from everything around us. At some point you will reach your destination: healed…but you will realize it was never about reaching the destination…it was about the journey.