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 would get there as quickly as I could. Before she hung up, Mom paused, “Oh, and he’s working.”
He was my ex-husband. We had been divorced for five years.
As I drove to the hospital, my mind drifted back to a few months earlier when I had run into him in public for the first time. I had just entered a chain store, snagged a shopping cart, took 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 the first aisle so our paths won’t cross? Continue down the aisle, keep my head down and hope he doesn’t see me? Or go ahead and speak and get the uncomfortable encounter over with?
I decided on the latter...and it was extremely awkward. While the conversation was pleasant, it was superficial and brief — and it left me emotionally sucked dry. I put my shopping list in my pocket, returned my cart and rushed to my car where I sat still, unable to even function enough to start the car. I was overwhelmed.
I took a deep breath and tried to get a grip on my emotions. How was I supposed to feel after running into the man who reneged on his marriage vows? Should I still be angry? No, I didn’t feel angry. Heartbroken? Surprisingly, my heart didn’t hurt. Sad? Perhaps…but for him, not myself. I sat quietly as thoughts bounced around in my overloaded brain. Free? Yes, that's it! I feel free! I dropped my head in a thankful prayer.
“Lord, all these years I have been saying I had forgiven him…and just now I realized I truly have forgiven him! And, if I ever see him again, I’ll tell him!”
My thoughts returned to the present. I quickly parked in the hospital parking lot and hurried to my sister’s bedside. Thankfully, the doctor had just told her that her pain was not pregnancy-related; she had kidney stones. I sent up a prayer of thanks and visited for a few minutes.
As I turned to leave, ‘he’ came around the corner. This time he spoke first. He asked me if I would like coffee and I followed him into the small break room. We chatted about the weather and he was telling me about a mutual friend when I heard it…
SAY THE WORDS.
The Holy Spirit spoke loudly and clearly to my heart, drowning out my ex’s words. I knew what I was supposed to say, but yet I said nothing. My heart pounded.
A second time, SAY THE WORDS.
The pressure in my chest was intense; I felt as if my chest was going to explode and the air was being forced out of my lungs. Lord, I know I said I have forgiven him, and that I'd tell him, but does he really deserve it? After all, he has never apologized to me…nor has he ever 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 would I remain silent in disobedience?
I interrupted my ex and blurted, “I need to tell you something. I have forgiven you.” As soon as the words left my mouth, the intense pressure in my chest was replaced with sweet peace.
My ex said nothing. He looked stunned and tears pooled in his eyes. He spoke softly, “You have no idea what those words mean to me.” He visibly exhaled.
Moments later our conversation was interrupted. We exchanged farewells…and even a quick hug. As I walked out of the hospital, I knew, with clarity, the forgiveness was for my benefit, not his.
Even though I was obedient that morning, the Lord wasn’t done with me on the issue. Honestly, saying the words ‘I forgive you’ that day was the easiest part of forgiving him. I had formed the bad habit over the years of keeping score of his wrong doings. I voiced his shortcomings at every given opportunity. I was good at playing the victim…and it was time to stop playing the he-done-me-wrong-card.
Forgiveness isn’t easy or instant, but is a choice.
Forgiveness renders anger powerless and brings healing to a wounded heart.
The Lord commands me to forgive others.
As a follower of Christ, I am forgiven for my past, present and future sins.
And I will choose to forgive because I am forgiven.
For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing. ~ Matthew 6: 14-15