[Guest Post by Nicole Reyes – I can’t wait for you to hear her later this month as one of the speakers for Quarter Life Conference. She is an advocate for the local church, and I can’t wait for you to hear why. In the mean time, read her powerful story about forgiveness.]
Forgiveness, also known as the F word, can be a hard pill to swallow.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows what he’s talking about. He said, “Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”
Many of you are thinking…
“Well, you don’t know the pain I’ve been through.”
I don’t know your past pain, but I do know what’s even worse than the pain of our past is what happens to us when we allow that pain to plague our present and sabotage our futures.
Unforgiveness is a trap.
It keeps us chained to bitterness and disappointment.
It keeps us unable to freely embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers.
I will never forget hearing a woman speak at church years ago. I was 19 years old, and fiercely loyal to the idea of never forgiving my father for what I had experienced growing up in an alcoholic home. I was completely bitter and determined to keep as much distance between my father and me.
But that all changed as I sat listening to this courageous woman share the story of abuse she had been exposed to in her home as a child. She shared about how a relationship with Jesus had brought healing and hope to her life. She described this healing journey as a process, and said an important step in that process was FORGIVENESS.
I thought, “I am never going to forgive my dad! He should be asking me for forgiveness!”
But no matter how hard I tried to fight it, by the time church had ended, I knew God was asking me to forgive.
I kicked and screamed in my heart.
I cried and prayed all the way home that night. I prayed, “This is too hard, God. How am I supposed to forgive him? Why would You ask me to do something this hard? Don’t You love me?”
I truly believe this was our Heavenly Father’s response: “I do love you. It’s because I love you that I want you to forgive. I want you free, and you won’t be free without forgiveness.”
That night I called my father.
I clenched the phone in my hand so tightly that my knuckles turned white. I struggled to control my voice as it cracked under the weight of confined tears.
And to my dismay, and by God’s grace, I said, “Papi, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. I want to ask for your forgiveness, because for so long I have been angry and bitter towards you. I want you to know that I love you, and I am deeply sorry my love has been in question.”
Then came a silence that seemed to last forever.
My father finally spoke. could hear the tears in his shaking voice as he told me that he loved me, and that he was sorry for all that had taken place.
It wasn’t a long conversation that night.
But some things don’t have to be everlasting to be eternal.
My relationship with my father wasn’t repaired in one conversation.
It took years for the brokenness to be formed, and it would take years for it to fully mend. But a bridge of reconciliation was built that day over the act of FORGIVENESS.
Perhaps even more miraculous was the shift that had taken place in my heart.
It was as if a chain wrapped around me had burst open.
Forgiveness unlocks purpose and destiny.
It allows us to run freely toward our future. It replaces skepticism with hope, and bitterness with love.
Forgiveness is not an emotion.
No, forgiveness is a choice.
It’s a choice we have to make over and over again.
Jesus addressed this very point with His disciples:
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)
(It is worth noting that forgiveness is not an invitation to allow someone to harm us. You may need to seek the advice and support of your pastor or another Christian leader to help you navigate a particular situation. Remember, forgiveness is something we freely give, but trust is something that is earned.)
Whether or not relationships are made new, our perspective on life certainly is.
Forgiveness unleashes the God-given potential for greatness that lies within each of us. My prayer is that you have the courage to embrace the type of freedom only accessible through FORGIVENESS.
You were made for far more than a life confined by past hurts.
Nicole Reyes is intent on people everywhere discovering and living out a deeper, more dynamic relationship with Christ. A gifted speaker and leader, one of Nicole’s passions is for people around the globe to learn from the generations that have gone before and to extend a loving hand to the generations that follow. By doing so, Nicole believes everyone can live a vibrant, God-filled life. She also has a strong desire to see the local church make global impact by helping bring solution to social injustice around the world. Nicole serves as Director of Ministries at Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California under Lead Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner and is part of the Teaching, Pastoral, and Executive Teams, as well as the Oasis women’s ministry team, GodChicks.