Do you struggle to forgive or know someone who does?
"If you are struggling with the sin of someone who hurt you it may be hard to believe you can offer forgiveness. That only means you are not ready to forgive. Some rush to forgive too quickly. You can't forgive unless you have first told the truth about all your hurt."
--M. Craig Barnes, Hustling God: Why We Work So Hard For What God Wants to Give Us
In Her Shoes
Susie and Sophie sport shiny new bikes on the same bright day as they venture onto seperate paths. Susie chews grape gum and giggles when a cool breeze sweeps the purple bubble onto her cheek. She slows, careful to guard her flowing hair from an unwelcome emergency cut. A young boy racing by clips her bike pedal, and she tumbles to the grassy ground. Her leg is broken--and worse, there's no getting the sugary knot out of her thick, blonde waves without a pair of scissors.
The boy is terribly sorry. He calls for help and waits with her until help arrives. The family doctor assures Susie that her leg will heal in six weeks. Her hair, too, will recover in time.
Why did this have to happen? Stupid boy!
Susie is stuck in a cast as the remainder of the bike-riding world pedals on in the summer sun. All boys are careless and clueless and she's not afraid to let them know it.
Her youth pastor admonishes, "Susie, you must forgive or Jesus will not forgive you."
Sophie pedals as her favorite song plays on repeat--a rite of passage to budding adolescence. The song and the wind and the speed with which she rides creates a melody of its own caliber. She doesn't hear the teenage boy approaching from behind.
Smack in the middle of a sun-shiny day the color drains from her world. The fall breaks her leg. The boy fractures her body, her heart, and her mind. Life as she knows it seeps deep into the ground. Frightened and abandoned she calls for someone--anyone, to rush to her aid. The sun offers no warmth to a cold and lonely wait.
Sophie's leg heals in six weeks.
Her heart and mind do not.
She can't sleep. The nightmare plays on repeat. She shames herself for not paying closer attention. Perhaps the whole thing could have been avoided if she'd been more aware of her surroundings.
She gives her bike away. The song she once loved attacks her minds-eye. She hates the sun. She hates the park. Lost in a desperate haze of pain and confusion the memory of that dark day overshadows how she sees herself, her peers, her life, and God. She worries she will never heal.
Her youth pastor admonishes, "Sophie, you must forgive or Jesus will not forgive you."
Two paths of forgiveness must be walked--empowered by the same God. A lovig God who knows very well what each girl needs to move forward. Sophie's path is likely to require more time and sustained support than Susie's. And although every forgiveness story is a story to be celebrated, Susie, most likely, will not be the one to validate and encourage Sophie along the way.
Does this diminish the value of [her] forgiveness story? Not at all. It just makes her one of the many forgivers with no frame of reference for an almost unspeakable struggle for the "Sophies" in our fallen world.
My name is Wendy Redroad. I'm a survivor of multiple years of child sexual abuse, and I'm speaking up. It's time for Christian leaders to examine the ways they unknowingly foster feelings of shame in believers whose broken hearts beat to the sound of a differnt drum. If you better relate to Sophie's story you don't have to go it alone. And you don't have to hate the "Susies" for sharing from their only frame of reference. Perhaps we could all let one another off the hook for being non other than what we are. Human.
When we can identify and celebrate the differences in our forgiveness stories we are more likely to become like-minded with the very Source of forgiveness: Christ.
Don't ya think it's time?