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  • Writer's pictureSharon

Forgiveness


My mom called me as I was getting ready for work; my pregnant sister was in the emergency room with abdominal pain. I told her I'd meet her at the hospital.   


Before she hung up, Mom paused and whispered, “Oh, and he’s working.”  She was referring to my ex-husband.


AsI drove to the hospital, my mind drifted back to a few months earlier when, for the first time sice our divorce five years earlier, I ran into my ex.


I'd just entered a chain store, taken out my list and sped down the main aisle. I came to a screeching halt when I saw him in the distance. My mind was spinning…what do I do?  Turn around and dart in the opposite direction?  Duck down an aisle so our paths won’t cross?  Or continue where I was going and get the uncomfortable encounter over with?


I decided on the latter and it was awkward. Extremely awkward. While the conversation was pleasant, it was superficial and brief — and left me emotionally sucked dry.  When we parted a short time later, I shoved my shopping list in my pocket and hurried to my car.


My thoughts were like the ball in a pinball arcade game, shooting around randomly at rapid speed. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel.  Should I still be angry with him?  No, I didn’t feel angry.  Heartbroken? Surprisingly, my heart didn’t hurt.  Sad?  Perhaps…but for him, not myself.  Free? Yes, that's it! I felt free!


Tears filled my eyes and I uttered a grateful prayer.  “Lord, all these years I've been saying I'd forgiven him — and now I know that I have truly forgiven him!  And, if I ever see him again, I’ll tell him!”


I shook away the memory as I walked across the hospital parking lot.  By the time I got to my sister's bedside, she'd been diagnosed with a kidney stone.  I visited for a few minutes. As I stepped into the hall to leave, "he" came around the corner.   


Even though I knew there was a chance I'd see him, it still caught me off guard.  He spoke, nervously asking if I'd like coffee. I sensed I needed to be polite; even more, I was interested to see how the encounter would evolve.  I followed him into the small break room and we chatted about superficial things.  He was telling me about a mutual friend when his voice was drowned out by a loud — inaudible — voice.


SAY THE WORDS.


I knew it was the Holy Spirit and I knew what I was supposed to say.  Yet I said nothing.  My heart began to pound.


A second time, SAY THE WORDS.


I felt as if my chest was going to explode and I couldn't breathe. I silently argued with the Lord.


"Lord, I know I said I've forgiven him, and I even said if I saw him again, I'd tell him.  But does he really deserve it? After all, he's never apologized to me. And he's never asked for my forgiveness!


The Holy Spirit was silent. The ball was in my court and I had a choice to make. Would I be obedient and speak?  Or remain silent in disobedience?


I don't know what my ex was saying, but I interrupted and blurted, “I need to tell you something. I've forgiven you.”


As soon as the words left my mouth, sweet peace filled my heart.


My ex looked stunned and tears pooled in his eyes. He cleared his throat. “You have no idea what those words mean to me.”    


Before we could talk, our conversation was interrupted. We exchanged farewells…and even a quick hug.


As I walked out of the hospital, I knew — with certainty —  that the encounter was for my benefit.  My words of forgiveness were not for my ex, but for me.  It was a significant turning point in my healing; a milestone in faith journey.


In the weeks and months that followed, I realized that saying the words "I forgive you" was the easy part of forgiving him.  Since our divorce, I'd perfected the practice of keeping score of his wrong doings, and when given the opportunity, I voiced his shortcomings to whomever would listen. I was good at playing the vicim. Then the Lord called me on it: it was time for me to stop playing the he-done-me-wrong-card.  And I did.    


Forgiveness is a choice.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.

Forgiveness often isn't a one-and-done achievement.

Forgiveness will render anger powerless.

Forgiveness will bring healing to a wounded heart.

Forgiveness means seeing the offender through the lens of God's grace.


I choose to forgive because I am forgiven.


For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 

- Matthew 6:14

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