Like anyone who has been hurt horribly by someone who had all the power, I needed help from a professional, someone who was not invested in the crime of the one who hurt me. Someone who could help me find my way through the process of discovering what forgiveness is, at least for me.
At first, I was perfect at fighting forgiveness; struggling with forgiveness; resisting forgiveness, and hating the thought of forgiveness. That's what I understood. But I've been in therapy for a year and a half, and I'm discovering a lot about what forgiveness is NOT ~ which is essential to understanding exactly what forgiveness is, at least for me.
Let me give you an illustration. When we bought our house and land, we inherited an acre of clay and granite, and the worst turf you can imagine. Trying to create a garden was a Herculean effort. Removing the turf was bad enough, but digging out the boulders required patience. I could not simply dig out the pebbles, as I could in my South Carolina garden. In my Virginia mountain garden pick-axes and shovels shattered on unforgiving granite rocks. My only choice was to dig away the dirt ~ which I laughingly referred to as soil ~ from around the boulder. Some of the rocks were surprisingly small, but the trowel would hit them, and everything would stop anyway, until I dug it out and moved on.
Trowel by trowel, pebble-by-pebble, rock-by-rock, boulder-by-boulder, my daughters and I, along with an occasional neighbor, dug our way through the years into a lovely garden, both front and back yards. With patience and understanding, and lots of faith and prayer, our unforgiving landscape became something to make a master gardener joke one day, "Stop that. You're making us look bad." That's how our garden was born and flourished.
So too, has been my journey into forgiveness. It has not been easy. I did not want to forgive. There was too much. My father for what he did. My mother for what she did and didn't do. My sister, my brothers, and later in life, a rape when I was in the military. Oh, there was so much to sift through. Heavy turf, pebbles, and boulders. Anger, rage, and outrage. Shame. My inability to forgive myself for being a victim. My inability to forgive myself for repeating my "victimhood" again and again. However, a new day is dawning. I promise you.
This is difficult to write, but I do it because I know I am not alone. I know that there are legions of us, and we must learn to forgive, not for them, but for us, so that we can heal. But what is forgiveness? Well, in order to learn what forgiveness is, I first I had to learn what forgiveness is NOT!
Forgiveness is NOT "gosh-let's-hug-and-everything-is-all-right-now-nothing-ever-happened!" *Grin* Forgiveness is NOT glossing over the injury which has been done nor excusing the evil which someone has perpetrated. Remember it was the Savior of the World who said,
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6
I don't profess to have the mind of God, but I do believe that He is a just, as well as a merciful, God; therefore, I believe He expects me to use the reason he gave to me.
So, what is forgiveness, after all, Jaye Lewis? Well, I believe that forgiveness is letting go. Letting go of the pain. Letting go of the hurt. Letting go of the rage. Letting go of the anger. And grabbing a hold of God's peace. Forgiveness for me is understanding that I did not do this to myself. I am a victim no longer, for I am being given the victory.
My battle to achieve the letting go; the forgiveness; the complete peace; where I can walk out of my therapist's office and say, "Thank you, my friend, but I can walk alone, now," is not over. I know. I have God beside me, but He put this good, Christian woman here to help me through the dark forest of this world for a reason, and until I need to reach out with only one hand, as I cross the hazards, I will continue to seek her help. I believe my therapist is a gift of God, and I thank Him for her.
So, now, by the grace of God, I can say, "Dad, I no longer hate you. Mom, I no longer resent you. Sister, I can let you go. Brothers, you are no longer on my back. Good-by. I place you in the hands of God, for His mercy and justice. I don't have to hate anymore." I can love myself at last and be free.
By God's grace, I am a survivor. I am also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Thank God it is a diagnosis that is recognized today. I have a ten pound Service Dog, Dixie Mae Doxie who has opened up new possibilities for me. She has made a new person of me, and I am willing, because of her, to come out of the shadows, and greet the world. I feel certain that the world wants to greet me.