The most life-changing, light-bulb-moment I’ve ever had regarding forgiveness occurred in 1990. I was sick and tired of carrying around ill feelings and age-old resentment. Fact is, I needed help to let go without waking up the next day finding I was still mad. When this epiphany happened, I didn’t see it coming. It was the day I realized that forgiveness isn’t just a choice, it’s a miracle.
Forgiveness is a tough pill to swallow, any day of the week. Jesus knew that when he corrected Peter’s math and up’d his “seven times” to “seventy times seven” as the correct number of times to forgive.
I love it when God sets the bar so high it’s impossible for us to clear it. These standards of impossibility beg the question, ‘how is it possible?” And I think that’s exactly what they are designed to do.
In my book, Untangled, I cinematically journal the road I traveled as a kid, growing up in a home with alcoholics. What warms my heart today is that never once has a reader felt sorry for me. I believe that’s because at the end of the day, God did for me, in me and through me what I couldn’t do for myself. I was not only able to forgive the ones who harmed me but over time, earnestly prayed for their salvation and healing. One by one, I’ve watched God infiltrate their lives.
How did I go from “persecuted” to “blessing my enemies”? Four little words define the answer: I can’t. God can.
I was missing a puzzle pieces in the process of forgiveness. I think the first thing I had to was admit that I liked staying angry. The anger made me feel powerful. Without it, I just felt weak. I re-read what Jesus said to Peter and tried to break the secret code of, “seventy times seven”.
Then I made a list of everything I could remember that hurt, then wrote the why of it, and then tried to articulate how it was hurting me today. When done, I felt more defeated than ever and as I prayed to God for help, I felt Him say, “It’s a miracle, Michele. You can’t do this, but I can. I did it first. I did it completely when I died for you, and every one of your family members.” Once I soaked that in, I kept asking God, “Then what happens now?”
I felt Him guide me in my quiet sense of mourning the losses and then these words spilled from my lips, “Lord, I thank you for the miracle of forgiveness. I thank You for the miracle that raised You from the dead. And I ask You for the miracle of forgiveness for each thing on my list. I need to be raised, just like You were.”
When I stopped white-knuckling forgiveness and sincerely asked for a miracle to do so, it stuck. Not all at once but it stuck. Every item on the list did. Today, I can’t remember much of what was on my list.
After forgiving my Mother, she came to know the Lord. I never told her I had forgiven her but so much changed after I did. I believe with all my heart, a pathway between her heart and mine opened. She could finally hear the gospel with me as the messenger but only after I’d forgiven her. She passed two years later.
Forgiveness isn’t just about us. It’s about what God will do though us after we’ve forgiven. That’s the power of forgiveness!
To learn more about Michele Pillar’s new book, Untangled, visit her website here!