Rediscovering Community: How Community Helped Me ForgiveBlog / Produced by The High Calling
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
For years I had been consumed with venom towards a special enemy. To protect the person involved I won’t go into the specific details. Our family had been generous to a woman, Jane, who was going through a hard time. After a long period it began to feel like our generosity was being abused. We sensed the woman wasn’t moving on with her life and began taking advantage of our offer. When I confronted her she laughed and scoffed. Then she moved on. For years I held onto my resentment. I was full of rage and hate, wishing we had never shown kindness to this woman.
Faced with reality
I had hoped I would never see this person again but after many years of not seeing her, she was working at an establishment where I would see her several times a week. I knew that it wasn’t a coincidence — of all the places she could be, God had placed her there. I hated having to see her and dreaded going near the office. I had a knot in the pit in my stomach whenever I thought about her. But then I began dreaming of forgiveness, weird dreams that filled me with peace. Though I didn’t want to forgive her, I began to hope that I would want to forgive; but I knew I could not do this in my human power, so I started to pray. After several painful weeks, we were camping with some friends, one of whom was our pastor. Surely, he of all people would empathize with my pain. Instead, he said, “Lucille, I think God is leading you to a place of forgiveness.”
I continued to pray. One afternoon I walked into the office across from my enemy, and there sat an old acquaintance. We began catching up and he mentioned that he was learning what a blessing it was to suffer for the name of Christ. I thought of Jane (whom I had just seen) and laughed. Rather than continuing on with his story, he stopped short, looked at me and asked what was so funny. I ended up telling him the whole story. He said, “Lucille, do you believe God can speak to us in our dreams?” “Sure,” I responded.
Let me pray with you
He pulled a small Bible out of his pocket and turned to a few passages about dreams. Suddenly, in that moment, I felt God had been compelling me to seek reconciliation in my dreams, and I told this friend so. I truly wanted to forgive but didn’t know how, and in this moment I realized I had the support to do it. He said he would stay there and pray. His supportive presence and God’s Spirit gave me courage as I rushed across the hall towards my offender, fearful that I might change my mind.
Shaking, I walked up to Jane and asked if I could speak with her privately. She looked around nervously and moved to the leather couch. I got on my knees, took her hands, and said, “I’m sorry for the trouble between us.” I didn’t ask her to forgive me—that would be manipulative. This wasn’t about her; this was about getting my heart right; whatever she chose to do was between her and God. “Jane, I want to know you are doing well. Are you happy?” Newly married, she said she was very happy. Then she asked about my children and apologized for the way things had turned out.
After that incident, I was able to release my all my anger at her and dread of seeing her. If I crossed her path, I could simply smile and wave, wishing her well and meaning it. God set me free from consuming thoughts of hate, vengeance, and retaliation. I’ve heard it said that in ancient Roman times, if you murdered someone, the dead person’s body was strapped to you until it rotted away. Imagine the relief that would come if that putrid carcass were cut free. That’s a picture of how I felt after forgiving this person. It was over.
(Excerpted from Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World, copyright 2013 by Lucille Zimmerman, published by Abingdon Press and used with permission.)
Lucille Zimmerman is the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World She is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, Colorado. In addition, she is an affiliate faculty member teaching psychology and counseling courses at Colorado Christian University You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog, LucilleZimmerman.com, where this article first appeared.
Online community is a real thing. Isn’t it? Maybe it depends on whom you talk to. How important is it to spend time with someone face-to-face? Can you build meaningful and lasting relationships online? Where do you find your most significant interactions, and how do you make time for them? Jesus focused on building his deepest relationships with three of his disciples while he walked the earth. What can we learn about community from Christ’s example, and how do we translate his example to the digital age? In this theme, we are Rediscovering Community in old-fashioned and new-fangled ways. We’ll celebrate the gift of relationship while exploring ways to build community in the modern age. Join us!
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