The Necessity of Forgiveness

When I came home from the clinic, memories of the rape haunted me day and night. Feelings of being trapped would grip me when I’d least expect it. It took me a while to realize that if I wanted to move on in the healing process, I would have to forgive Jack. If I didn’t let go of my bitterness, it would destroy me. So I chose to forgive, but I soon learned it would be an ongoing process.

One night I needed to use a restroom at a grocery store. It was in a very obscure place at the back of the store. To get to it I had to go through a set of double doors, around boxes of stacked food, through another door, down some stairs, down another hallway, and around the corner. As I walked down the stairs, all I could hear was a radio playing and a man yelling at one end. I couldn’t see him; I could just hear him. I began to wonder if he could see me. What if something happened? Would anyone hear me over the blaring radio?

I feared being raped again.

In that moment of fear, I had to choose to forgive—again—the man who had raped me.

In the weeks that followed, my desire to let go of my pain and hurt was tested over and over. Sometimes I’d step into an elevator and realize the only other person in there was a man I didn’t know. The familiar feeling of being trapped would wash over me. I’d have to force my fears to stop, take a deep breath, and choose to forgive again. I’m relieved that these moments of fear come less and less now, but there are still daily situations that can instantly leave me feeling vulnerable.

It’s hard to admit I’m sometimes scared and feel out of control. Sometimes I think admitting this makes me more vulnerable. But the truth is that not being able to admit it is what really makes me vulnerable. For a while I told myself I would have to be my own protector since I felt God had failed me the night I was raped. But as I tried to protect myself and be tough on the outside, bitterness grew within me. It became like a wall to everyone who wanted to love and support me.

I didn’t want to grow up to be a bitter woman after all the counseling and prayer I’d invested in my healing. Yet, as long as I hung on to bitterness my healing was always one reach too far. Forgiveness was the only way to get rid of it. Not only did I have to forgive Jack, but I also had to forgive myself for not seeing the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Forgiveness has been a lot of hard work. I’ve had to tackle some tough questions. Like many children who become a Christian at an early age, I believed in God because my family did. But I didn’t know God intimately. For the first time in my entire life, the rape left me feeling abandoned by God. I wondered how he could let something so awful happen to me—his little girl. I didn’t understand that bad things can happen to good people.

I may never know why this happened to me on this side of eternity. But even though I don’t have all the answers, I’ve learned that God will never leave me—and that he can take a broken heart and mend it back together again.

Name has been changed.

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