In the last few weeks I’ve been really trying to better myself. I’ve been trying to be more positive and see the sunny side of life. I’ve been pondering the best ways to change, and while there have been little victories; I haven’t noticed much of a difference. I’ve been focusing on one big challenge that feels like it will ever go away. While I was going to bed last night I told the Lord of my frustrations and didn’t feel any peace or answer to my questions. I decided to leave it alone and go to bed.
I slept in this morning and had a very restful night’s sleep. I had some very vivid dreams, the kind that stay with you even after you’ve woken up. As I was lying in bed thinking things over, I thought of one person in particular that was in one of my dreams. The last few years we’ve grown apart and life hasn’t been for us the way it was before. I started to think of all the things that this person had done for me and all of the memories we had together. It was at that moment that I realized what I was feeling. I felt nothing, which was really weird. I thought of the person again. I felt nothing and then I felt love. All of the hard thoughts and feelings that I had built up towards this particular person over the years had over the course of the night melted away.
I’d never had this kind of experience before. I didn’t even know that was possible. Instead of answering the direct question in front of me, the Lord helped me in a completely different aspect of my life that I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s His way of chipping away at the bigger problem I’ve been single handedly trying to dig into. It’s amazing that in one night all of those feelings of hurt and resentment could totally disappear and I’m the one who is benefiting from it.
I had a similar experience to this a few months ago. There was a woman I knew who I worked closely with and we did not see eye to eye on anything. I felt like nothing I did was good enough to please her. If I tried to help, she would tell me how I did it wrong in front of everyone, and then redo it herself most of the time. I was frustrated.
I was invited to a party by our mutual friend. I was worried she might be there, but I wanted to support my friend. I showed up and she wasn’t there. I had a great time and met a lot of really cool new people. We all got into a really deep discussion and I was really enjoying myself. Then this woman showed up. I didn’t want to sit by her so I moved down a few chairs so she would have to sit by someone else. The person I moved by also moved so that she could sit down in the circle and left the two chairs by me empty. Sure enough she came and sat right by me.
I decided at this point that I’d had enough with this strained relationship. I wanted it to be over, I had to work with her, so I wanted to have my mind set changed so that we could work together. I silently prayed and pleaded with the Lord to soften my heart. I prayed for the Lord to let me know how I could change, so that I wouldn’t have these intense emotions whenever this woman walked into the room. I don’t remember what the topic had turned to, but someone was talking about how much we all loved the person who had thrown the party and everyone was getting a little emotional. Out of nowhere this woman placed her hand on my knee.
I froze. What was she doing!?! In that moment all I could think about is how much I wanted her to be sitting far away from me, and I really didn’t want her touching me. What was she thinking? Then I realized that I had a decision to make. Wasn’t I just praying for a way to let my disdain go? She was a wonderful woman, a lot of people really looked up to her, but I couldn’t see eye to eye with her. We’d known each other for years, and while I respected her, we just never clicked. I’m sure it had been just a few moments, but it felt like a really long time. I had to decide to either continue to essentially hate her, or forgive her and myself, and try to move past this.
I thought of a story I’d heard a few times. It was shared in General Conference in 2013 by Timothy J Dyches called “Wilt Thou BeMade Whole.”
After the war she often spoke publicly of her experiences and of healing and forgiveness. On one occasion a former Nazi guard who had been part of Corrie’s own grievous confinement in Ravensbrück, Germany, approached her, rejoicing at her message of Christ’s forgiveness and love.
“‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’
“His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. “And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. … Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
“I tried to smile, [and] I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”1
So I sat there, frozen, thinking of this story, conflicted, wanting to forgive but unable to move. (I’m not trying to comparing her to a Nazi, obviously these are two different stories, but the principle is the same) I prayed for the strength to move my arm and as I did I was really nervous, but knew it was in my best interest. I placed my hand on top of hers and as soon as I did all of my anger and animosity felt like it melted down my body and through the floor boards. It was gone.
I held her hand for a moment and then took my hand back and she took hers back. I think that maybe she was praying for the same thing. We didn’t talk about it, but I did give her a hug before she left.
I’ve seen her multiple times since then, and I always wait for the moment when I feel like I need to pull back and put my guard up. It hasn’t happened. All of those feelings are completely gone. It’s like I’m a completely different person.
I share these experiences only to testify that God is real. He is aware of your situations and He’s willing to help if you ask. I also share them because healing and forgiveness comes in many forms. I haven’t been able to have this experience with everyone I want to, but sometimes forgiveness comes from a distance because we can’t actually have conversations with the people we’d like to have conversations with.
Happiness is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice. Make a choice. I know it might be hard, but with God all things are possible.