"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 take bike rides under the same bright sun but find themselves on different 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 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!
Her pastor cautions, "Susie, you must forgive." Deep in her heart she knows the boy meant no harm. And so she lets it go. She forgives.
Sophie rides with her favorite song playing on repeat--a rite of passage to budding adolescence. The music and the wind and the speed with which she pedals creates a melody of its own caliber. She doesn't hear the teenage boy approaching from behind.
Smack in the middle of that sun-shiny day the color drains from her world. The fall breaks her leg. The boy fractures her body, her mind, and her heart. 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 her cold and lonely wait.
Sophie's leg heals in six weeks. Her mind and her heart 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."
Two paths of forgiveness must be journeyed--empowered by the same loving 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 Susie's 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 a fallen world.
My name is Wendy Redroad, and I am a survivor of multiple years of child sexual abuse and traumatic betrayal. If you, like me, better relate to Sophie's story you don't have to go it alone. And you don't have to resent the "Susies" who seemingly forgive with ease. 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; Love.