I do not know you personally and I do not know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. I do not know what made your heart so tough, so heavily burdened and angry but here is what I know: I know how it is to have unforgiveness in the heart. I know how it is to hate someone so much that you started hating yourself. I know how it is to see a person’s face and feel a rush of anger pulsating through your veins. I know how it is to doubt everything you do so you live out how people defined you. I know how it is to have to defend yourself even when you’re afraid. I know how it feels to wake up in the morning wishing you never had to go through today again. I know how it feels to be disgusted with your own body. I know how it feels to be rejected and denied, to hold a grudge against people and to have no peace of mind.
I remember how it feels not to forgive, and I know that it’s grueling. You feel this overwhelming surge of different emotions attacking you all at once; you fall apart. Without realizing it, you instantly strip off the ability to trust people again. The fear of getting hurt holds you back; the walls are too high to let people in so you look out for yourself.
You’ve held it in for so long, and I want you to know that you can cry. You can tell people you need help. You can shout to the world that all you want is to be happy. You can breathe and let loose. You can learn to trust again, hope again and live again. All of these is possible but first, heal.
The healing only starts when we accept that things cannot be changed no matter what we do. There is no “undo” button, but we can get up from that fall. Someone will pick up the pieces and glue everything back together. Someone will make your heart much stronger than it was before. This is not the end of your story. There is a way to turn the mess into a beautiful message.
I hope that it comforts you when I say you aren’t the only one who’s hurting. As you wept quietly under the covers, someone was mourning with you. He has been crying far too long, and I hope you hear Him more than you hear your own sobs. I hope you cling to Him tighter than you hold your own hand. I hope that this time of trial becomes a moment of intimacy for both of you like it was for Him and me.
God is mindful of you
While the person who did me wrong was free and happy, I was lost and confused. I was ashamed of the skin I’m in. I did not have the confidence to see the good in me. All of these I had to endure only because God forgot about me. Why did He allow bad things to happen? Where was He when I needed immediate rescue?
I remember that time when I struggled with pain and anger; I felt like the universe must have despised me for letting bad events happen the way they did. I asked myself, What did I do to deserve this? What have I done wrong? The cut was so deep that I refused to feel anything. I wanted to feel numb but that would mean my offender has won over me. Instead, I took the joy of feeling the pain and turned it into something else.
Anger was a constant visitor in the depths of my heart and I entertained it; I made it stay. I didn’t want to forget what happened to me and anger reminded me so much of it. It satisfied me when I relived the pain. I knew every single detail of it and I didn’t want it to fade away that easily. I got scared of letting the wound heal because then I’d be clueless on what to do. I got scared to open the next chapter of my book and find a blank page. I got scared to start over and wonder who should I have been if I haven’t had a horrible past. I chose pain over emptiness.
Every day, I wanted to get even with the enemy. Even though vengeance does not fix the damage, at least I wasn’t the only one who’s hurting. I wanted them to experience the same terror they inflicted on me. I ignored them and just wished their conscience made them live in guilt every single day. I pretended to be okay; let them think that I was not as miserable as they expect. I showed everyone that I was strong. But if I were to be honest, all I was, was exhausted. I was tired of carrying so much heaviness in my heart, tired of being the victim. I was dying to be vulnerable. I wanted to cry and tell the world I’ve had enough. I wanted to sleep at night without fears of flashbacks flooding in.
I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and love who I see. But I can’t. If only my heart could learn to forgive, would I be happier then?
I was deeply wounded by the troubles of the past that I questioned God’s love for me. I resisted His majesty all because of my wrong idea of who He is. The thing is, God is god. That’s who He is. He set the moon and the sun in the skies, He made the land, seas and the heavens, He made earth and all the living things that crawl on it. And He made man above all these things to take care of it all. (Genesis 1:26) Unlike animals, God loves man so much that He gave us the gift to decide on our own. He does not manipulate us nor deceive us to serve Him. When He made man in His image, He entrusted us with free will. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Because He is the creator of all, He is aware of every little thing that happens to the work of His hands. He knows what goes inside our hearts. No matter how tough we seem to carry ourselves, He knows how we are. He knows our very thoughts and intentions. And He knows when we use our free will as a ticket to chase the desires of the flesh while running away from His call. (“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7)
Now that I look back to the past, I realized that while people used their free will to hurt me, He has heard my cry. And while I was wondering where God was, He was comforting me and offering me a new life filled with hope. (“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” Lamentations 3:31-33) He didn’t let me wander in confusion. God said, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) It was only when I accepted His love that I’ve learned He has plans to restore me and make me good as new.
Come to Him for rest
Like you, I dreamed the day that my offender would come to me and acknowledge what he has done, apologize, and make up for the damages. Every day I see him and every day I hoped he’d approach me, humble himself, and say he’s wrong. But I never heard the words. Every day he disappointed me and every day I got frustrated. After getting tired of it, I just wanted to forgive my offender without expecting anything from him. I wanted to set myself free. I wanted to speak to him without hesitation. I wanted to be able to sing freely even when he’s around. I wanted to move on and let that chapter of my life be forgotten, for my sake and not for him. But as his silence deprived me of the truth and justice, I loathed him even more.
Last year, I got invited by a colleague who I wasn’t well-acquainted with yet to attend a three-day Single’s retreat. I wasn’t sure why I signed up for it at the last minute, but I went. I was there with a bunch of people I barely knew talking about a god I seriously hated. People spoke so much about their encounter with this god that I became more curious. I thought the group activities and the fellowship were okay, but I was still looking for something much deeper. I made new friends yet I still didn’t think that something changed in the way I look at God until I heard this verse:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably as the word “rest” resonated with me. While I was in a crowd of a hundred people, I couldn’t care about anything else. I felt an unexplainable beating in my chest and all I could see was Jesus with His arms wide open for me. I didn’t resist; He was inviting me to run back to Him and I did. With my eyes closed and head bowed down, I cried to Him – hiccups and all. I begged, “God, do whatever You want with me. Just take it all away. I feel so tired.“
I exhaled a long deep breath and I just let go. My skin felt hot and my blood ran cold – I was about to explode. My heart couldn’t contain the burning and the thumping in my chest. Tears were falling nonstop but I was happy; I was smiling. I still don’t have the answers to my questions but I wasn’t confused anymore.
That same night, I knew I have forgiven my offender. I was okay with the fact that I didn’t hear the words “I’m sorry” or “I hope I can go back in time and did what was right”. I let it go – all the anger, the shame, and the rejections. At a snap of a finger, the Creator turned the broken into whole. I never felt as light as a feather until the retreat. Because of the overflowing love of the Lord, I didn’t have the room in my heart to hate. I don’t blame myself anymore. I wasn’t angry anymore, instead, I was filled with gladness to have known His love. Nobody was able to quiet down the voices in my head, but He did.
Looking back, I don’t have any regrets from that experience because it has led me to this perfect time. The process was painful, but the reward was priceless. I didn’t believe forgiveness was possible but here I am, talking about how beautiful it was.
The sun shines on everyone
You have scanned through a lot of articles over the internet, read inspiring books and watched tear-jerking movies about forgiveness and the art of letting go. You have heard pieces of advice from friends and colleagues. You hear them but they just don’t get it, do they?
Unlike in the movies, your story is not fictional – your pain is real. Unlike those who told you to forgive, they examined your tragedy in minutes when you had to endure that pain for years. They do not know what they’re saying. They have no idea what it’s like to hurt they way you’re hurting.
I can never forget what my mom told me right after I opened up to her: “I hope you find it in your heart to condemn the sin and not the sinner.” That time, I wished I could take it all back. I only felt more alone just when I was finally ready to allow someone to comfort me. As anger consumed me, my thoughts, words, and actions screamed “Go away! Nobody will ever understand me!” every time people try to get close. I trapped the rage inside my heart and fed it in isolation; it grew so big it almost destroyed me. I was so focused on my brokenness that I didn’t think I could ever be fixed.
All my life, I believed people need to earn forgiveness just as people need to prove themselves worthy of respect. Offenders should show that they’ve changed, or else they don’t deserve to be forgiven. Unless they’ve earned it, forgiveness means you let bad people get away with what they’ve done and pretended like nothing happened. Forgiveness means you give up the fight for justice. Forgiveness means you are weak because you can’t deal with it any longer so you choose to forget. But God was telling me something else. It was through God’s grace that I learned about God’s gift of salvation to us. He didn’t require us to earn or work hard for it but He gave it to us anyway. He wants to rebuild us, in a foundation that is laid in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Jesus, an innocent man, was condemned to death while Barabbas, thrown into prison for riot and murder, was given a chance at a new life. (Matthew 27:15-26) The guilty was spared and it was Jesus who took that cross. He willingly endured the shame, insults, and pain on the account of the criminal. He died not for the righteous but for the sinners.
I guess mom was right – hate the sin, love the sinner.
If we carefully look at ourselves, we’d realize we are all just like Barabbas – we have stolen, cheated, lied, cursed, hated and fought against God’s law. We all stand guilty before God regardless how grave or small our sins are. (“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23) Therefore, just like Barabbas, we are all in need of Jesus to be saved. The good news is that we are all children of the Lord. The Father who showed you mercy is the same Father who wants to reach out to the lost; those people who did you wrong. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“
As victims need healing, the sinners need rescuing, too.
Righteous or not, God is mindful of everyone. It is not because of our works or doings that He chose to love us, He just does. He patiently pursues each of us every day regardless of who we are or what we’ve done. As we gracefully accept His mercy and respond to His love, it is out of our free will that we’d be an instrument for God’s reconciliation with our offenders. (“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
In this journey, I am still learning to find my security in Christ. Seasons come and go and it’s not every day that I feel close to Him. I still get scared sometimes but God never forgets to remind me of His faithfulness. He still pursues me just as He constantly pursues everyone to come to Him. I can never repay the price it cost Him to save me, but through His grace, I will tell every one of His majesty, and the wonders He has done in my life.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45
P.S. To the one who hurt me,
Most of the time, I wonder what runs on your mind. If like me, did you ever question God for what happened in your life? Did you ever doubt His love because he let you listen to the madness shouting inside your brain?
Whether we believe it or not, God has been with us from the very beginning, and He will be with us til the very end. He never left. God’s voice seemed too far away because of the overwhelming noise around us. When all He wanted to do was to fix what has been broken in us, we ran away and followed the world.
We have missed His direction, but it’s not too late. I do not know what made you do it, but maybe you were confused. Maybe someone made you feel afraid before, and maybe you felt hurt, too. Maybe you were hearing so many voices in your head that time and you were too weak to resist them. Maybe, just like me, you were once a victim too. I may still haven’t got the apology and you may still deny what happened back then. But in case you are reading this, I forgive you. We may have never talked about that unwanted chapter of our story, and we may go on with our lives as if nothing happened. But in case it still matters, I forgive you.
We always acted indifferent towards each other, but please know that I do not hate you. I do not condemn you. Every day, I pray that you’d seek repentance. I pray that one day you’d feel the intense burning and thumping in your chest as you come to Him for rest and healing. I hope that when you’re ready, I hope that you’d talk to God about it. No matter how long that will take, I’ll wait. And this time I won’t get frustrated; this time you won’t disappoint me, for it will be God’s timing and it’ll be beautiful.