The Beauty of Forgiveness

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
Did you ever had one of those years when you were growing up? When everything seems to go wrong? Perhaps you were the target of a class bully, or tormenting by a former best friend. Perhaps it was the year your parents moved to a new town. Whatever the reason, it was the year plagued with loneliness and awkwardness as you moved from childhood to adulthood, not really sure of where you stood or what you really wanted in life.

I had one of those years - 5th grade. Fourth grade was bad too, but not like 5th grade. The year I cried myself to sleep with my mom rubbing my back trying to convince me that someday this would all pass by and everything would be okay.

Usually the tears were thanks to a certain girl named Tina* (*name changed) in my class. Due to the small nature of our mission school, we were the only two in our grade, and Tina felt it her competitive duty to make sure she always came out on top. Being the compliant child I was, I let her push me around, tease me, and hurt me until I was convinced that I was everything she said I was.

I think every girl can understand that confusion when you try so hard to please someone and they just return bitter words. I think everyone knows what it's like to be lonely, to play with your dolls wishing for a real friend. I don't think I have to explain the hurt I felt to anyone. Tina left for the States after 5th grade, and all of 6th grade I dealt with the repercussions of the year of teasing. No longer under her, the hurt turned into anger and bitterness, especially as I realized to what extent her affect had on me.

This story does have a happy ending. In 7th grade, I was assigned a paper on the topic of "forgiveness" for Bible class, and I think that is when I really let the hurt and anger slide away and truly forgave what she did. God taught me a lot as I poured through the Scriptures looking for references to forgiveness. The biggest thing of all: anything that Tina had done to me, had been done to Christ. And Christ not only forgave but He paid the price for those sins. How could I not do the simple act of turning around and forgiving her? It wasn't easy, I don't think - is it ever? But a necessary step. And God wasn't finished with our story yet.

Fast forward about 5 years. Tina and I both returned to Peru, but we went to different schools and rarely saw each other. Again it was a lonely time in my life, but not at the fault of any particular person or persons. I was desperate to know who I was, as a person and as a Christian. At the time I was involved in an active youth group at my church. Each year, we had a weeklong retreat on the beach, and my senior year Tina was in attendance. I remember one evening climbing the steps to a little rooftop area where patio furniture overlooked the beach. It was quiet and peaceful. I saw Tina up there, and as I joined her I noticed a Bible in her lap.

We talked then. We talked about what had happened. We talked about remorse, and forgiveness. We talked about healing. We talking about friendship and moving forward. We talked about where we were today, and how God was working in our lives. I remember Tina sharing things from her heart, showing me some of the Bible passages she had been pouring over and meditating on. I remember telling her about the aching loneliness I felt, and her assurance of God always being there as a friend. There is more to our conversation, and the things God taught me at that time in my life, but they are for another time. What I always love is how God brought things full circle. He took the girl who used to torment me, and seven years later He used her to draw me closer to Him.

To me, that is the beauty of forgiveness.

ashley's signature

16 Comments:

  1. Amy said...
    I love this story Ashley! I went through a hard time early on in high school. My best friend turned against me and started spending time with a group of people who were drinking, smoking, shoplifting etc. My other friends went with her and I spent most of that year alone. She sent me a heartfelt letter of apology years later, but she had already moved across the country (her parents sent her away to a private Christian school in order to separate her from her destructive peer group). I haven't seen her since, but occasionally see her mother and hear "the news".

    About a year later I met a Christian girl in my math class and we were inseparable through high school. Our chemistry teacher called us "The Bobsey Twins"
    Susan said...
    What a beautiful story, Ashley :). I don't remember you ever telling this to me, so it was a good in a "new way" :). I just linked to it.
    Adrian C. Keister said...
    That is indeed a neat story. What is perhaps harder is when the person who hurt you shows no remorse whatsoever. I've been wrestling with a situation like that, and wondering: do I forgive if they don't repent? The answer to that question may be different depending on whether it's God forgiving one of our sins, or if it's us forgiving someone who sinned against us. I don't have an answer yet. One thing I know I shouldn't do is let myself become bitter and angry. It helps if, as my brother Lane said once, I remember where they're going if they don't repent. And that is a place so horrible I wouldn't wish it on my worst human enemy.

    Truly, we have a great God!

    In Christ.
    joyhornbeck said...
    Ashley, what a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing.
    Blair said...
    What a great story! Thank you so much for sharing it Ashley! I'm so glad you participated in the carnival this week. This story will touch others who have been there like it did me ((Hugs)). I'm so glad it had a happy ending too :)
    Ashley said...
    Aww thanks for all your sweet comments. :-)

    Adrian: As far as my understanding goes, forgiveness is more between you and God. Reconciliation, however, can only come if both parties are willing to forgive/accept forgiveness.
    Monica - books are our friends said...
    Ashley, I'm glad you were able to forgive your classmate and even able to meet up with her years later to see the Lord's hand on her life. I think that's a rare oportunity.

    Monica
    Beth said...
    Such a wonderful post Ashley. Thank you so much for sharing. Do you remember the struggle I had with an old friend? I don't think I've ever truly forgiven her, since the wounds are still fresh whenever I think about what happened. Thank you for the conviction that I need to make things right and not let this sin continue to dwell in me.
    Nikki said...
    Great conclusion! Bitterness hurts not just others but mostly you. You miss out when you don't forgive!

    Lol. It seems like every year was a year like that for me. I was fortunate to always have a friend when I was little, but mostly adults and a small group of kids always seemed to help me feel like a loser anyway. I wish I had been more appreciative of the friends I did have!
    Ashley said...
    Beth: I know who you're talking about. I pray that you'll be able to work through that pain and forgive her!

    Nichole: That's funny, because for me it was just the opposite! I have always felt much more comfortable around adults than people my age.
    Adrian C. Keister said...
    Reply to Ashley.

    Are you saying that forgiveness is a divine thing, and reconciliation is between mere humans? If so, I'm not quite sure about that distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. Consider the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us." Or consider Matt. 18:21 ff. Clearly, forgiveness is also a human activity. Probably mere human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are qualitatively different, but it's translated as the same word. Moreover, we are also reconciled to God through forgiveness of our sins. It seems to me that forgiveness preceeds reconciliation, and that both events can happen between either mere men, or between God and men.

    In Christ.
    Ashley said...
    Adrian: I think I wasn't very clear with my earlier response to you! What I meant was forgiveness is something that we extend to other people for our own benefit, if that makes sense. Whether they accept it or not, or whether they deserve it or not, we still need to forgive them. That's what I meant by it being between God and ourselves - He doesn't command it for their sake, but for our own. He's concerned with our hearts at that point; He'll convict them when the time is right, and that's not for us to worry about. I think the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation comes with whether the other person accepts the forgiveness and ya'll work through the past in order to create a new relationship. I agree that forgiveness must preceed reconciliation. So basically, what you said. :-) I hope that makes a little more sense.
    Anonymous said...
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    zan said...
    I know how you felt/feel. I have struggled to forgive someone who sinned against me. I think I have been able to, but I still feel sick to my stomach when I see or even hear the individual's name. (I hate confrontation)

    I was a very lonely girl when I was in public school and homeschool. Kids are HORRIBLY mean, especially when you aren't a very attractive kid and are shy. I worry about my boys being hurt by their peers because of their looks or personality.

    I remember visiting our new pastor and his family. I was so excited because he had a girl my own age. I noticed that she kept ignoring me and disappearing during our visit. I went in search of her and overheard her and her friend (who was also visiting) about how weird I was. When they saw me standing there I tried to pretend that I didn't overhear their conversation. I remember getting really warm and trying hard to fight back the tears of disappointment. I said something stupid and pretended to be interested in finding the adults. Ugh! Such a depressing memory.

    Parents (especially pastors and their wives) need to teach their kids how to be a Christian friend to the friendless lonely kids.
    Adrian C. Keister said...
    Yes, that does make more sense, and I agree; thanks for the clarification. :-)]

    In Christ.
    麻辣火鍋Fay said...

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