[Guest Post by Sarah Miller – When I met Sarah and got to know her I always knew she had a sweet spirit, so when she submitted this piece to me I was shocked to learn about the broken pieces of her past. It just goes to show you of God’s forgiving power and how, no matter what we’ve been through, we can overcome.]
If there is one thing in my life that I know a lot about, it is anger.
I grew up very angry because of a horrible incident that happened when I was six years old. But even the horrible things in life can teach you valuable lessons later on in life.
This incident taught me the art of forgiveness.
When I was 6, my family was close friends with another family down the street. We were always there playing. My older sister always played with the brothers, and I played with the sister who was a few years older than me. I never thought anything was wrong with the games we played–until one day her brother walked in and asked why we were naked.
I had been sexually molested for a whole year without knowing it.
Fortunately, my family moved further away at that time, and I never had to see her again. I never told my parents or any of my friends what had happened. I kept this secret locked in my heart where it grew into an uncontrollable anger that haunted me for the next 18 years.
Fast forward to 2011.
I am now 24 years old, freshly back from six months in South Africa doing missionary work, and I am volunteering at a week of church camp on the Oregon Coast. My life was really coming together and it seemed like I should have been so happy–but I was still just so angry.
Even after all these years, I couldn’t let go of the past. I couldn’t forgive that girl for what she did to me.
Then, due to an unforeseen conflict, two fellow camp counselors needed a place to stay for the night after camp. Graciously, my parents opened our home to them. That night, I stayed up until 4 A.M. with one of them, pouring our hearts out to each other. I confided my secret anger in her, and to my astonishment, I learned that she went through a situation almost identical to mine–but worse.
She had been abused by two family members, and she had to see them at every family event and relive that nightmare. I was lucky that I never had to see my molester again. But, somehow, despite the constant reminder of what had happened, my newfound friend had, against all odds, forgiven her family for what had happened.
I didn’t understand how she had reached that point.
To forgive someone for scarring me like this?
It completely blew my mind.
My friend taught me that night that forgiveness isn’t forgetting.
I will never, ever, forget the pain this girl inflicted on my life. I will never forget the wrong that was done to me. But I needed to actively choose to take this whole situation and lay it at the feet of Jesus.
Because then, and only then, can God take the bad in your life and turn it into something that can be used for His Glory.
Through that one Divine moment, that time when God decided to cross my path with that of someone who had already learned the art of forgiveness, I learned to release my anger.
The next morning when I woke up, I wasn’t angry.
For the first time in over 18 years, I was able to start my day praising God instead of cursing my past.
No, I haven’t forgotten.
No, the pain has not completely gone away.
But I have forgiven that girl. I have let this go.
And not only has that helped me, but I have already been able to help others learn that wonderful, beautiful, life-breathing art of forgiveness.
My name is Sarah Miller, and I’m 26 years old and currently living in Portland, Oregon. I plan to move to pursue a teaching degree, and my own photography business. I recently returned from South Africa where I have been volunteering with a mission organization for the better part of the last two years.
[Photo: B*i*B (mostly off), Flickr]