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“Sarah, I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
Tears streamed down my face, matting the strands of un-kept hair that were tangled in my wet eyelashes. My friend and I sat across from each other on the white duvet, clothed in baggy sweaters, the muted crashing of Indian Ocean waves against the shore as our background noise.
I had reached the end of myself.
After a year of intense emotional trial, from losing people I cared deeply about to being faced with the staggering effects of my past eating disorder, I was done. My heart was absolutely fractured, my emotional capacity absolutely spent. I had done everything I could in the face of great loss and pain: I had grieved, I had gone back into my past, I had processed, I sought mentorship and wise counsel, I sought healing, I had prayed and been prayed for. And yet, I was still so broken.
True, things had gotten better. I had witnessed the effect that acknowledging the past can have on your present. Through recognizing my continual battle with lingering eating-disorder tendencies, I discovered my passion for helping others in their struggles. Through a broken relationship, I was taught the essential need for mourning.
But still, remnants of my past clung to my heart, relentlessly reminding me of my incurability. “He didn’t think you were worth the second chance,” they whispered cruelly to me regarding my fractured relationship, “so you’re not worthy.”
I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was tired of hearing this endless loop in my mind, exhausted from tormented dreams that recycled that same mantra, giving shape to my fear that these thoughts were truth.
My friend’s eyes softened and, not saying a word, she pulled me into a hug and held me as I sobbed.
Little did I know that it was at the end of myself that my answer would come.
The following morning, Sunday, June 9th, at a little church called Victory in the inconspicuous surf town of Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, my heart was forever altered. The pastor began to speak about forgiveness from the heart. Something within me stirred, and I knew this message was meant for me.
I listened, captivated by the words of truth I so desperately needed to hear. To forgive from the heart, we must realize that unforgiveness, anger, bitterness etc. are simply indicators of a bigger problem, the pastor explained. If we try to medicate these surface issues, we will forever be frustrated. The root of these negative feelings lies in the shifting of our focus from God to the person or circumstance we are angry with. Thus, our unforgiveness becomes an idolatry of the heart. Our thoughts revolve around that person, become consumed by them, until every moment is filled with our anger.
In turning our focus to a particular person or circumstance, we give them the power to determine our identity and destiny.
We allow another person or experience to define us, letting ourselves feel stupid, unworthy, used, damaged. Suddenly, those outside forces become the superior influence and word on our identity. This makes it impossible to forgive anyone, because every time we see that person or are reminded of them, we feel stupid, unworthy, used and damaged.
“No person controls your identity or destiny. You can choose to let them have power over that, but only God has authority over your identity and destiny.”
It all made so much sense now, my ongoing struggle. I had been allowing a person to dictate who I was and the direction in my life. I had bought into the lie that since my relationship had messed up, that would direct the course of my life. I had permitted my own feelings of unworthiness to turn the other person into a monster, so that every time I saw him, I felt shame. And I believed that I was damaged goods. That broken was as good as I was going to get.
Then I stopped looking at a person and started looking to the only One who truly has a say in who I am and where I am headed. And what did I find?
Wholeness. Life. Love. Freedom. Fullness. No lack. Limitless possibilities. Victory. Things I had given up on, yet they were right there in the passages of Scripture, promises, love letters written on the pages of eternity, sealed by the blood of our Lover, Jesus Christ.
And when you experience that, you can’t help but forgive the other person.
Now, I must ask, what are you allowing to determine your identity and destiny? Is it a break-up, like me? Is it feelings of self-hatred? Is it an experience with bullying or abuse? A broken family? Whatever it is, it doesn’t have any power over you, unless of course, you allow it to. Your Lover, Jesus Christ, saw you in your brokenness and, compelled by love, bore all of your shame and pain as He conquered death on the cross and rose again. He alone determines your identity and destiny. And do you know what He thinks of you? He calls you His Beautiful One, His Flawless One. He is utterly captivated by you. And He has a life full to overflowing with dreams beyond anything you could ever imagine.
We have a choice. We can permit the things of our past to rule who we are and where we are headed, or we can choose Him.
What will you choose?
If you would like to continue this conversation, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com or comment below! And please, share your forgiveness journeys too! I’d love to hear how you are learning to live well.
Please take the time to check out Victory Church, there is some powerful stuff being done through that group!
I love you all very much, I hope the journey my heart has been on can help you on yours!