Today I share with you a guest post from my friend JD at Compassion Can. Before you read this I ask that you take a moment to take a deep breath, ready your heart, and slow down enough to really read these words. JD is an amazing writer, friend, lover of Jesus, justice fighter, and has been an incredible inspiration to me. As you read JD's testimony I ask that you let these words sink in deep; deep enough to change you.
Me. This man, who had done everything imaginable to rob me of my peace, came seeking any ounce of peace that I could spare for him.
God gives to us without sparing, He fills us to overflowing with His mercy, His grace, His love, His forgiveness... and His peace. Who are we not to share from this abundance, from the gifts bought and paid with His blood?
I don’t know if it should have been more impossible to love him, or to forgive him. No one could have blamed me for not being able to do either – out of anyone in this world, I was the one who had the most reason to harbour hatred and unforgiveness towards this man.
I was four years old when my innocence was shattered. I remember the day as though it was yesterday, the day someone came into my room and raped me for the first time. The abuse continued, typically daily and increasing in severity, until October of 1993 – I was 18.
This man was no stranger to me. I had been raised to trust him – his role was to protect me from harm. Instead, he brought calamity to my life and hurt me in unspeakable ways.
This man was my father.
In 1993, after finally breaking free from sexual slavery, I gave the broken pieces of my life over to God and begged Him to redeem my life for something good. Only He could make me feel whole again, only He could restore what was lost. To this day, I’ve only ever told one person the depths of depravity I’ve survived, there are few able and willing to hear it.
Freedom was sweet, but there would always be a missing piece. I would not have peace until I knew that my father also had peace. As brutal as it was to be in my shoes – imagine the brutality of living with such a darkness choking life out of his heart? Against all that ever made sense, my heart ached for his life.
I don’t deserve Jesus’ grace, mercy, forgiveness, even His love – as dirty as I was, broken, shamed, didn’t God reach down and pluck me from the filth He found me in? I knew He longed to do the same for my earthly father. My father was His child too.
A little over four years ago, in the summer of 2008, I was working in the yard when an unfamiliar truck pulled into the driveway. When I realized that it was my father, I fought back the flood of emotional turmoil until I felt I could breathe again. I hadn’t seen him in a long, long time. What did he want? Why was he here?
After years of horrific abuse at the hands of this man, my father, I had every reason to be cautious, guarded. Who I was in Christ, though, gave me the strength to step forward and greet him. Our strength is not our own. It is merely borrowed from God, given freely when we seek it.
He saw that I had cut down some trees and had a large pile of branches to be hauled away, so he offered to load them up in his truck for me. I tentatively accepted. I've learned to be careful when he offers something. Invisible strings sometimes have the steepest price.
Once the branches were loaded and he climbed back into the truck cab, preparing to leave, I stood closer to the door to say goodbye to my father. My father, a normally very strict, harsh, rigid man, a ruthless man, the same man who had done unspeakable things to me as a child, was sitting in the truck with his shoulders slumped, his hands folded meekly in his lap, his head down. He couldn't speak.
When he finally looked up, he had tears in his eyes, and he was choking back the raw emotions.
I had never seen him cry.
His voice broke and crackled as his message to me stumbled out with rare and heartbreaking honesty. He said that in the last few months, his health, his impending retirement, his own journey, had led him to take a long, hard look at his life... especially what he had done to me. Sobs wracked his body as he said that he knew he had no right to ask, no right to expect it, but that he wanted to humbly ask for my forgiveness, for everything he had done, for not only having failed to protect me, but having instead brought me in harm's way.
He explained that not a day had gone by in the last few years when he had not thought about his actions and their consequences, not only for him, but for me. He said that his past haunted him everywhere he went. The world had no mercy for people like him. He was not asking for pity, he just wanted to let me know that he was no longer hiding behind the dark, cowardly cloak of denial. He admitted that while he knew the hell he faced, and could only imagine the personal hell he had created for me, and that he was truly sorry. He looked me in the eyes, crying, shaking, and said "Je m'excuse, je ne peut pas te dire comment je m'excuse... plus que tu pourrais imaginer. Je te demande pardon... je te demande pardon" (I'm sorry... I can't tell you how sorry I am... more than you can imagine. I am asking for your forgiveness. I am asking for your forgiveness.)
There was no hesitation... I reached my hand out to him, placed it on his shoulder, and with tears in my eyes, felt an outpouring of compassion for this broken man, this man who had never found peace, but sought it so desperately that he had come to me to find it.
I gave him the most radical, liberal and undeserved gift, the only thing I had left to give to this man... my genuine, heartfelt, honest forgiveness.
Christ died for our sins... Whatever we do for the least of these, we do it for Christ... but the beauty of it, was that this was not only for Christ, but for both of us.
I told him that I had already forgiven him long ago, that I had found peace through Christ, and that I wanted nothing more than for him to find that peace too, that peace that could only come from God. I told him to seek it, and in the process, not to forget to forgive himself too.
There are no words to describe the way those words affected him that day. I stood by him as I shared God's mercy and grace with him for the first time in my life, for the first time in his. God was there.
Forgiveness is a precious, powerful gift. It is often not only for the one being forgiven, but for the one forgiving. Although I had survived to that point, from that point forward, I stopped surviving, and started living.
The past no longer weighs me down.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22