Just like a broken bone cripples what you can do, holding onto pain stops you from living the life that God wanted you to have. Once the bone heals, you can move again. The good news is that you can find healing from your emotional pain by finding freedom in forgiveness. Please welcome Sarah Geringer to Chaotic Life as she shares part of her testimony with us.
The act of forgiveness set me free from a painful past.
Forgiveness has been a long, necessary task, and it’s been essential in my healing as a child of divorce.
Several years ago, my church did a sermon series and small group study based on the book Life’s Healing Choices. The book suggested writing forgiveness lists for all the people who had hurt us in the past. My lists included the ways I had been hurt as a child of divorce, and writing forgiveness lists marked the beginning of my healing journey.
As I wrote out those hurts for the first time in quick succession, the anger I had held in so long burst to the surface from deep reservoirs. It felt good to release my anger and hurts on paper, a safe place that no one but God could see.
I began to understand myself better through writing those lists. No wonder I struggled so often as a child and young adult. In my efforts to be a peacemaker and people pleaser, I had held in my hurts too long.
The lists grew longer and longer as I remembered more hurts. I realized the longer the list, the more I had to forgive. And the more I needed to release my expectations and longings so I could be set free once and for all from my painful past.
Forgiveness didn’t come overnight.
Hurts kept bubbling to the surface, and sometimes new, current-day hurts were added to the mix. Instead of pushing them down, I had to release them over and over again. I had to develop a practice of forgiving every time a hurtful memory or new offense came to me. I still have to say out loud, “I forgive you,” when I remember an old hurt.
In his excellent book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall writes,
Not only do we need daily forgiveness as much as we need daily bread, but we also need to pray daily that we have the grace to forgive others as a lifelong commitment.
I also wrote a list of ways I had hurt myself. Forgiving myself has been even more difficult than forgiving others. I had to forgive my self-loathing, my seasons of self-destruction, my refusals of love and kindness when they were offered. I had to see myself as one who needed forgiveness instead of condemnation. I found freedom when I no longer punished myself for past mistakes.
What’s amazing about the forgiveness process is that once I wrote lists, grieved the losses, and spoke forgiveness, my memories had far less power over me than before. They are scars, but no longer open wounds. I’m no longer writing out memories for my own healing—I write in the hopes that others can relate and receive the same healing that I received. I hope others will see that freedom from their pain is possible through forgiveness.
Questions for Reflection
If you were to make a forgiveness list, whose names would be on your list?
How might God grant you new freedom in the process of forgiving others?
About Sarah Geringer
Sarah Geringer is the author of two self-published books and a memoir. She blogs five days a week at sarahgeringer.com and is working on a new book for the 2017 Lenten season. Sarah lives in her beloved home state of Missouri with her husband and three children.