October 17, 2016
An Open Letter {to Everyone I Know}: Please Forgive Me

I used to have the nickname “sunshine,” but for several years now I’ve been nothing but a dark cloud. I apologize for being a black hole instead of a life-giving light.

I have become person I hate, therefore I have been unable to truly love anyone.
I apologize for taking instead of giving, for failing to love you.
The roots of unforgiveness for those that hurt me grew bitterness in my heart. This bitterness took root, grew out, & gave me sharp edges. I apologize for harboring unforgiveness & the effect it has had on my demeanor and how I have treated you.
{You can’t get too close to something with sharp edges or you’ll get hurt too.}

I allowed the bitterness in my heart to create a victim mentality about myself instead of seeing myself through God’s eyes. From this mindset, I built walls to protect myself from any additional hurt. Instead of being vulnerable, I have been guarded – treating everyone like a possible enemy and on the lookout for only myself. With walls around my heart, I have repeatedly acted out of selfishness and self-preservation instead of with generosity and love. I apologize for believing lies that caused me to put myself before you, always be on guard, and unable to trust you.

Mad at God about the injustices I faced, about how I was been treated, and about how – despite how faithful I felt I was to Him, I was wounded so badly – I ceased to see Him as a good Father who wants only good for His children. I couldn’t see His faithfulness to me. I couldn’t see why He allowed me to be hurt and why evil seemed to prevail. What a person believes about God is probably the single greatest determinant in what they believe about themselves and what they believe about others. I apologize for not viewing God rightly – causing hurt to myself, causing hurt to you, and resulting in a poor representation to the world about who God really is.

Hurt people hurt people.

During and after my time as a missionary, I was extremely hurt by a series of events and people. I won’t deny that even after over three and a half years, I have to battle and lay down my desire to right the major injustices that remain. Instead of forgiving and allowing God to carry out my justice, I have allowed the deep hurt to penetrate my heart, where my source of light is supposed to reside. I have allowed how I was treated to shape my belief of who God is, and what kind of love I deserve.

In this condition, I have only been able to take instead of give.
In this condition, I have become a dark, bitter person, strangled by unforgiveness.
In this condition, I have used all my energy protecting my heart by building walls and rough edges to keep others out.
In this condition, I have believed lies about who I am and about the intentions of others.
In this condition, I have viewed God wrongly and therefore responded to Him and to the world disgracefully.

Sometimes it feels as if your heart can’t handle any more hurt, so you build walls to protect it, most of the time without even realizing you are doing so. This wall-building process, however, not only failed to keep me from hurting, it buried me under more weight that crushed my already-shattered heart and pushed away the people I loved most. In the process of trying to protect my crushed heart, I ceased to be myself at all, and I hurt others. Many others.

But the truth is, who I am isn’t a dark cloud or a black hole.
Maybe some days. But that’s not me. I refuse.
I’m sunshine, just as my co-workers used to call me when I walked in the door to work every day. Elizabeth isn’t a guarded heart or a solid concrete wall. She’s vulnerable, giving, trusting, and has a passion for loving and serving others. She puts others before herself and has an enormous capacity to love. A giant heart. A heart that shouldn’t be guarded by the limitations of an inflexible, cold wall or strangled by roots of unforgiveness.

I have to stop defining myself & my current life by what happened, justice or not.
It happened. It hurt. Bad. But it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t continue on today.
It happened and now it’s over.
I am not what happened.
I am not my mistakes
or my sins
and
I am not how people treated me.

I am more. Much more.

I choose to believe this truth.
I choose to believe that I am worth more than how I’ve been treated.
I choose to believe and understand that I have sinned and made mistakes just as those who hurt me, and because of this, forgiveness is the answer. Forgiveness is due not only for those who hurt me, but for myself as well. I am commanded to forgive if I expect Jesus to give me the forgiveness I desperately need.
I choose to believe in the love God has for me, and that injustices hurt His heart infinitely more than they have hurt mine.
I choose to believe that this is why He sent Jesus, to prove on this earth His power over sin and death and all the works of the enemy… and that includes all the harm done to me and my life.
I choose to believe that when Jesus returns as He promised, He will destroy the enemy and his works and take his rightful place as King. He will set up His Kingdom on earth, righting all the wrongs, healing broken hearts, and making me and all of creation completely new, whole, beautiful, and perfect.
I choose to cling to Him until then, believing the refreshing truth of His word.
I choose to love myself… because He loves me, He has forgiven me, and He has made me new.

I ask for your forgiveness for the years of bitterness that stole my capacity to love you as I should have. For all the times I should have loved you better, listened to your heart, and put you and your feelings before my own. I ask for your forgiveness for all my harsh words and the awful negativity that has seeped (and sometimes poured) out of my bitter heart.

I ask for your patience as I ask God to smash the heart walls, whether in Joshua and the walls of Jericho form all at once, or like Andy in the Shawshank Redemption – one chisel, one pocketful of rock at a time.

I will be free!

Finally, I ask for your grace as I relearn how to love myself. I have really bad habits that need to be broken – like verbally assaulting myself on a daily basis. I have really hated myself. I hate who I have become and hate the damage I see all around me as a result of these past few years of being so incredibly lost and broken. Bad habits take time to be broken. So I need your grace for when I revert to old ways, and your love to walk with me through it.
Thank you to those who have continued to walk with me, even as I have bruised your heart in the process. You are and will always be my heroes.

I want to love you better.
You deserve it.
And so do I.

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One response »

  1. Laura Bennet says:

    You are a courageous woman of faith. Reading your posts has been a delight. Your vulnerability will make a way for others to open themselves to God’s light and healing. Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m glad you found something encouraging there.

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