You hold the keys.
There are many definitions to the word forgiveness in Webster’s, but pardon was my favorite definition. Pardon means – the action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense.
Life brings many hurts to us. Some are small hurts, others more significant. It’s impossible to go through life and never be hurt. It’s hard sometimes to find forgiveness in our hearts for the “petty” hurts, but it’s really hard to find forgiveness when the offense hurts you to the very core of your soul. In 2008 I was put to the test of forgiveness. Let me share with you my heart, and the journey I had to take to find forgiveness to a man that had inflicted more grief upon me than I could have ever imagined.
On a cold, rainy evening in March, 2008 I received a phone call that would cause me to fight hate, not love, fight bitterness, instead of forgiveness. My husband of twelve years had been out to eat with a couple of his cousins while I attended a Birthday party with our son. After leaving town he dropped them off at their houses and headed home. When he pulled into the driveway of our home our neighbor pulled up behind him and when my husband stepped out of his truck he shot him five times resulting in my husbands death at the age of 30. I wasn’t home at the time of his murder, and upon hearing the news I was told I couldn’t return home because law enforcement would not allow me to. At 1:30 in the morning our county coroner came to where I was and he took me and other family members into a room and handed me a ziplock bag containing a wet billfold, some change, and my husbands rain soaked cell phone. The coroner told me how sorry he was. I took the bag from him and with overwhelming sadness I wondered how one evening could end so tragic. Those moments of grief and sorrow started a fire of bitterness within me towards the man that had inflicted so much pain on me. Early the next morning I said I wanted to go home – I was advised against it, but I had my mind made up that I was going. When I pulled into our driveway my husbands truck was setting there just like it always did, it looked like he was home. I got out and touched his truck while trying to come to grips that he was gone. I went inside and everything looked normal, his shoes and coat were lying there as normal, he had to be there somewhere. As I walked through the house I screamed and screamed, I was filled with sorrow and anger…how can this happen, and how can anyone ever forgive someone for hurting a family so bad.
It doesn’t seem logical that we should have to forgive someone for so much hurt and pain.
I found myself yelling at the law enforcement that stood out in our driveway collecting evidence, they stood in silence as I asked them why it happened, and why they didn’t stop it from happening. There were many court hearings that followed his death, and I attended them all. I set in the same room with the man that had hurt me so bad. I left many of the court hearings filled with anger and resentment. In 2009 after a very emotional trial the man was sentenced to 25 years in prison. As time went on I struggled with even knowing what forgiveness was in a situation like that. Was I really required to forgive him to be a Christian? Matthew 18:21-22 says-Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.”
Was I required to do that? It’s not possible to forgive someone who has hurt you so bad, or is it?
In my situation I can’t tell you I felt liberated overnight. My forgiveness was a process that I had to work through with prayer. I really did want to feel right in my heart towards the man and forgive him. Piece by piece, day by day I was finally able to forgive completely with no bitterness inside. In 2014 I was once again put to the test of forgiveness when he was granted a new trial due to a technicality in the first trial. At the end of that second murder trial he was set free. I once again found myself fighting with anger at how he could live in freedom after taking someone’s life, it wasn’t fair to me. But once again I found forgiveness.
I found forgiveness in my heart towards a man that had caused me more grief than I could have ever imagined.
I found forgiveness that he was granted permission to live less than 10 miles from me after being set free. I found forgiveness when I met him in town, a free man. I didn’t say I felt it was fair, I said I found forgiveness. I didn’t say it was easy, I said I found forgiveness. I didn’t say I wasn’t scared, I said I found forgiveness. I prayed he would find forgiveness. I pray he did find forgiveness before he died. I prayed for his family. I still pray for his family because I know it hurt them too. I know they still hurt. Today my soul is liberated from hurt and bitterness. I feel no anger, resentment or hatred. I have been free from that for many years. When I drive past the place where it all happened there is sadness, but no hate or bitterness. I can tell the whole story without feeling hatred. I appreciate everything the law enforcement did. I ended up making friends with many of them, and I apologized to them for my anger. I realize they would have prevented it if they could have. I am so thankful I chose forgiveness and that I don’t live in my own prison of bitterness and hatred. I was pardoned. My journey of forgiveness has made me into a stronger person, and I learned how much God loves me. He lost his only son, and he understands all my grief and pain…we are never alone. He turns our tests into testimonies if we allow him. Are you in a prison today because you refuse to forgive someone? Is bitterness chipping away at you day by day, year after year? Do you feel like you are in shackles? I encourage you to forgive and allow your heart and soul to be pardoned, you to can be set free from your prison. The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon. You hold the keys.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32 KJV
Written by: Chera Guthrie