This post is a tough one for me to write. It’s particularly challenging, because it deals with the hurt created when someone very close to my family acted in a way that was both shocking and frightening. Nevertheless, there is a lesson being taught through the pain we are still feeling, and it is a message I firmly believe needs shared.
I want to preface this story by telling you that I will not be sharing the nature of my family’s relationship to the person involved because this person is someone we love and care for deeply. My intention is not to hurt them in any way. That said, for the purposes of this post, I will be referring to this person as Jordan and will avoid using male or female pronouns. I will do my best to present the story in the most honest format possible without giving away details that might reveal this person’s identity.
Now that all the logistics are out of the way, let’s rewind to a few months ago, where our story begins.
I snuggled up to my husband, sinking in to him as he made himself comfortable in the center of the dated couch, patterned in floral that had faded with years of use. My black leggings revealed the dog hair that would otherwise have remained anonymous in its permanent abode there in the worn fabric, and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. I was so tired of cleaning things!
My husband tensed as his phone vibrated, signaling yet another text coming through. As he opened it, my eyes scanned the small green block, its hurtful words fanning the flames that had been lit in me the night before. I wasn’t even trying to dampen the anger. I spoke the first thought that popped into my mind. Though his own emotions were slightly less heated, my husband fed off my passion.
“Why does it always have to be like this?” he asked, looking helpless and frustrated all at once. I knew he wasn’t really looking for an answer. He’d known Jordan long enough to accept the pettiness, the meanness, as a fact of life.
Together, we rounded up our children and all the supplies they required, packed our vehicle, and returned to our home. Knowing we might be an unwelcome sight, my husband gave Jordan notice that we were returning. But, thanks to the ongoing heated exchange between the two, Jordan didn’t take his warning seriously.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps we were overreacting. My husband and I both knew that, as often happened in these situations with Jordan, the drama would soon pass. But, after weeks of receiving the run-around, he and I found ourselves stressed beyond a level we were equipped to handle. We’d found ourselves fighting each other, and the more I thought about all the strain our current situation offered, the more I believed our current course was the right one.
I just can’t do it anymore! We can’t do it anymore. I’m tired of giving Jordan the power to decide what happens next. I thought. The strain of the past two months, the reality of having my future taken out of my hands, weighed heavily on my shoulders. No more. My husband and I were taking our future back.
Seeing our car pull up, our neighbors decided to pop over for a visit. While three of us chatted in the kitchen, the fourth stayed in the living room, content to play with the kids. We’d been like that for perhaps only a few minutes when a persistent buzzing interrupted our conversation.
It was Jordan, sending my husband a string of texts not only demanding to know our whereabouts, but expressing an ire that was absolutely warranted, once you understood that this arrival of ours was completely unexpected. As I said, despite my husband’s warnings, Jordan had chalked it up to sarcasm and frustration vented in the course of their unkind exchange.
A breath passed between the moment my husband read the last text aloud and the moment we heard the screech of our front door being yanked open.
What happened next was something that, for all our years of knowing Jordan, we never would have predicted. When you love someone, you accept their flaws. But – as happened in our case – you sometimes forget amidst that acceptance that their flaws can be dangerous, even destructive.
Flying through the door, Jordan wasted not a moment in attacking my husband. Open hands slapped his face, clenched fists pummeled his chest. All the rage I’d felt over the past 24 hours welled up inside me, and it provided the courage I needed to step between the two. But Jordan would not allow this fury to be tempered by me; in the next breath, I became the object of Jordan’s assault, and in self-defense, I took the two of us to the floor.
“Mommy!” I heard my daughter cry, her voice full of fear I’d never heard before.
My kids. I thought, sorrow welling up in my soul as I realized they’d witnessed at least part of our assault. I couldn’t think straight from that moment on. Looking back, I remember key moments about the rest of that time, but much of what transpired is a blur.
I remember Jordan sweeping an arm across our table, destroying several plates and bowls that broke into pieces as soon as they hit the floor. I remember, too, the feeling of Jordan’s hand slapping my face, calling me a “lying little b****.” And I remember the sheer weight of my emotions overwhelming me as I called the police in tears.
That night will be burned in my memory for years to come. I pray that it fades from my daughter’s memory and that my husband’s relationship with Jordan can heal. And yet, it has taken me this long to even desire that. I’m still not sure I truly do.
You see, in the weeks that followed that night, I began locking my doors during the day. My heart would begin to race and my palms would sweat whenever my husband received a text. Each unexpected phone call or knock at my door left me trembling, even after I realized the caller or visitor wasn’t Jordan. And it wasn’t until my counselor termed the incident “traumatic” that I realized all the anger I’d been feeling towards Jordan was just fear in disguise.
Why do you need to know the details of that night for me to share the transformation taking place in my heart? Perhaps you don’t. But I’ve found that a testimony is much less impactful when you remove the emotion from it. And I want this message to stick with you. I want it to sear on your heart the way that night is seared in my mind.
Because today, the theme of my post is forgiveness. It is the journey I’m currently on. I’m not sure how long this road is, but I do know that God has revealed to me a great deal about myself on this long walk. If you’ll stick with me, I’d like to share a few of these things with you.
1. FORGIVENESS IS NOT A FEELING
On January 20th, I began a devotional entitled “How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Deeply”. Upon beginning this devotional, I still believed I was innocent in our situation. But, as He so often does, God spoke truth to me through His word.
I am so thankful for the wisdom scripture has to offer on this subject, and I am especially thankful for the faithfulness of those much wiser than me to interpret scripture and put it into context that brings its truth home. Day 4 of this study was the most enlightening for me. On this day, I faced the hard fact that forgiveness is a choice.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
Be angry and do not sin. I don’t believe that anger itself is a sin. Righteous anger is a Godly characteristic, and it comes from being made in his image. In our circumstances with Jordan, my anger was righteous. But, in my anger, I also sinned by clinging to it instead of truth.
The truth is, God doesn’t call me to forgive “when I’m ready.” He calls me to forgive, to let go of my anger, before the sun even goes down. Time and time again, God reminds us through scripture that He forgave us first! Our sin was much greater than the grievances we might hold against each other, and we are called to forgive.
“…if one has a complaint against another, [forgive] each other;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
– Colossians 3:13
It isn’t a request or a suggestion, it is a command. It’s a command that’s hard to follow. It’s a command I can’t follow alone.
2. FORGIVENESS IS SOMETHING I NEED TOO
Luke 7:47 says, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
My story at the beginning of this post is only one-sided. You cannot see the pain Jordan endured while facing the consequences of these actions because I did not experience it. And I can assure you, you do not have all the details from the many things that took place that night and in the following days.
But perhaps what you will see is this: in making my decision, I cared not for how that choice would impact Jordan. I cared only for my comfort. And in the days following, I truly believed that Jordan was the only one who needed forgiveness.
Yet in this new year, God is showing me that my sins that night are no less than Jordan’s. My sin of selfishness contributed to the problem. My sin of pride is still slowing the healing process. But until I realized how much I needed forgiveness for myself, I could not offer it to anyone else.
I have so many regrets about that night, chief among them my own actions. The moment I realized that, I could take the next step toward healing.
It took God’s loving reminder that Jesus died for my sins to remember that His grace had nothing to do with me. Even as I wrote this post, I found myself thinking “Man, Jordan’s choices were so much worse than mine!” But how do we gauge which sins are greater?
The fact is, we can’t.
Haven’t you ever told a lie? Stolen something – maybe time, by being late – from someone? Or perhaps you’ve said something in anger that hurt someone deeply? Have you ever been unfaithful? Disrespected your parents?
I could list things we’ve all done all day long. But if you’re reading this, and you’re looking back on your life and thinking of a choice you made, an action you took, a word you spoke, that you regret, then I promise, I’m right there with you. This next part is just as hard for me to accept, but here it is, nevertheless.
Our regrets are the sin that levels the playing field.
If I’d chosen to think of Jordan instead of myself, that night might have gone differently. If Jordan had stayed that raging temper, that night might have gone differently. We were both at fault. My regret is that I acted selfishly, and in it, I recognize I am no better than Jordan. Suddenly, the events that transpired that night are no longer Jordan’s fault alone, and I find myself needed to ask for forgiveness, as well.
3. FORGIVENESS CANNOT BE EARNED
If you ask someone for forgiveness, does it mean they are obligated to give it to you? If you change your behavior, have you won the right to be forgiven? And if your answer is yes, would it still be yes knowing that you will make the same choice that left you needing forgiveness in the first place seventy times seven more times over the course of your life?
The fact is, no matter what you do, you cannot make someone forgive you. They are in control of that decision. They get to decide when to forgive you for hurting them. And they might never decide they are ready.
Does that scare you a little bit? To know that you could make a choice that hurts someone you love so deeply they might die without ever offering you the chance to heal your relationship and find closure? It terrifies me. I think about how many times I’ve hurt someone with my words or actions, and I know I’m bound to do it again and again and again. I can only hope that I don’t someday hurt someone “too much” to be forgiven.
If I care so deeply for a relationship that lasts but a moment in eternity, how could I not care about what comes after?
The truth is, my sins earn me death. And I can ask all I want, but God doesn’t have to forgive me for them. Yet he did. I owed a debt I could not pay, and God paid it all out of love for me.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
– John 3:16-17
4. FORGIVENESS CANNOT BE LOST
What if I do make that same mistake over and over again? What if I hurt the ones I love 490 times? People might have a hard time choosing forgiveness. I might lose friendships and relationships thanks to my constant failure.
But there is One who will never stop loving me; one who will never stop loving you. Scripture is clear on this matter:
In Romans 8:37-39 Paul writes, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38)For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39)nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I love you, friends! And, even better, Jesus loves you.