A few days prior, my husband casually mentioned his upcoming business trip. I felt sick and angry inside when I heard where. Attached to this city name were memories from thirty-three years ago I’d rather forget.
I never told my parents what happened to me in second grade. Shame kept me quiet until I was in high school. I have no idea why, but one day I casually told a relative what happened. Maybe I needed to be heard and understood. I felt self-conscious sharing what I remembered, like I was making things up.
Not a single tear was cried over my abuse—not during, not after, not ever. When I told a few trusted friends about my past, I emotionally separated myself and told it as a “long, long time ago this happened to me” story. My lack of tears convinced me I was OK. But deep down, I knew better. Hearing a city name awoke something inside of me I buried alive decades earlier. Pain.
I knew I needed to get to the root of my pain. After a conversation with my family, I Googled this guy’s full name. I cried what I now call my “death cry” with what I uncovered.
My memories were true.
I wasn’t crazy.
My worst fears realized: This multimillionaire—a repeated sex offender—spent his entire life molesting children! Nothing stopped him. His wealth spared him. And the worst part was I wasn’t his only victim. His track record ripped through state lines like a tornado and left devastation in the hearts of many young boys and girls.
Sorrow and outrage shook me to my core. I wanted to stand up for every child he had ever hurt. I also wanted to die. Now what? Clueless, I sobbed one minute and then walked around numb the next.
For some reason I needed to know if this monster was still alive, so I paid $13.95 to search site to find out. He was! Now in his early 80’s with health issues, he violated probation only a few years prior. Still a sick, sick man!
I had to make a decision. I couldn’t ignore my past any longer. I could either go after this creep once and for all—or let him go. Torn with emotions, I prayed, journaled, and talked with family and friends.
A few days later, I sat alone with my laptop and stared at a blank word document. Time to give this guy a piece of my mind. I prayed, took deep breaths, teared up, and started typing. At first I struggled to find words. What words are strong enough to describe what he did? None. After a page of sharing with him my experience and pain, I decided it was time to say I’m done. As I continued, I asked him hard questions. I even probed into what he might be thinking now as an old man about to meet his Maker. I told him what saved me from destroying myself: my faith in Jesus.
Something amazing happened as I kept writing.
I wrote words I never dreamed of writing. Words about forgiveness and love and the hope of heaven. The strangest feeling came over me as wrote out a salvation prayer and invited him to know my Healer. My heart soared with peace and joy. I felt more alive and full of God’s love than ever before. The weight of unforgiveness after all those years finally lifted.
The next day I sent the letter unsigned with no return address. It was finished. I was free! Who knew I could actually pen words of love and forgiveness to one of the most evil of men?
God did. He gets all the credit.
That day I witnessed a real miracle—a miracle in my heart. The healing power of forgiveness. God in action.
This experience taught me a couple truths I hope I never forget.
1. Never hold onto unforgiveness. It’s not worth it. Unforgiveness is a heavy yoke.
2. Forgiveness is hard to do—and sometimes takes decades (in my case)—but it brings freedom. Freedom to heal. Freedom to love.
No matter how bad the offense feels, I’m learning the best path is straight towards forgiveness. Lewis B. Smedes’s quote says it best: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
For over thirty years, I was held captive by unforgiveness. Today I feel the difference. I’m lighter—not physically—but mentally and emotionally and spiritually.
Since this letter, I’ve thought over and over again about Jesus’ words as He hung dying on the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Christ was dying, did He feel completely alive and full of love by releasing His offenders? I bet He did.). How could Jesus just let these offenders of the hook after all they did to Him? His words make no sense. Did Jesus know something they didn’t? Did His heart soar with peace and joy as He spoke forgiveness? Even as
God is love! His ways are not our ways.
I also think about how Christ treated the criminal hanging next to Him. Jesus did not say, “It’s too late, buddy. Die without hope.” Instead He said, “See you in paradise.” Not a cold shoulder, but a warm embrace.
Jesus showed us a different way of living. He lived out forgiveness in action. It’s taken me decades to really grasp the benefit of true forgiveness.
I’m thankful for the freedom I now feel with my childhood sexual abuse. I no longer hold unforgiveness in the dark corners of my heart. I no longer cringe inside when I heard that city name. Sure, that city will always have an ugly memory attached to it, but now it has been topped with God’s healing love. I choose to focus on that.
It’s true with God all things are possible (). The letter I wrote is proof of that to me.
Copyright © 2008 Tiffany Stuart. All rights reserved.
Tiffany Stuart is a freelance writer, speaker, and stay-at-home mom of a tween daughter and a teenage son. Her passion to see women free from shame and embrace God’s love. She and her family live in Colorado. She enjoys blogging at Tea With Tiffany.