Forgiving You Sets Me Free

That moment you realize you need to forgive past hurts, not for the offender but for your own freedom.

Over the weekend I was smacked in the face with realization that I still needed to forgive past hurts, I was shaken for a while and then I had to pull myself up. I had coffee with a cousin that I hadn’t seen since the day I was put back on the plane to California at 15 years old after I told my Mom about being molested. Once I arrived home phone calls were made, denials were made, and I was left angry and hurt.

I had been anticipating the meeting when I found out that my second cousin’s ex-wife wanted to see us. In my mind I was thinking it was for an apology, validation and to make amends. When we were contacted about getting together that was the information I received from another family member. I was open since I had worked on a lot of the abuse issues from my childhood. I had worked on freedom from shame and I started to feel proud of all the accomplishments I had made towards healing. In my mind, since I was able to share my story  and encourage those that were struggling I assumed my recovery was strong.  However, sometimes the wind gets knocked out of me to remind me of the work I still need to do.

I made calls in the morning before going to church for support, because my anxiety was high. I didn’t know what to expect I was scared and unsure, I had prayed in the morning that everything would go well and that I would be strong. I asked God to let the reunion go well.

After church we set the GPS for our forty minuet drive deep into the desert. My cousin was staying so far in the desert that the further out we drove the higher the temperature rose and so did my anxiety. “Smile, keep it together”, is what I kept repeating to myself. The closer we got, the weaker my mantra became. Reality, I was worried.

We finally arrived, thankfully my ride or die supporters were with me. I stepped out of the car and we all did our greeting and I truly believe that  we were genuinely happy to see each other. My cousin gets in the car and we head to Starbucks which seemed like a safe place to meet at least in my mind plus there weren’t a lot of options where we could sit down and talk, we were in the boonies of the valley. I was so grateful to see Starbucks.

I ordered my usual black coffee and a banana, and everyone else got their drinks and food. Once we sat down and the conversation started I was faced with the reality that we would not be dealing with anything I assumed about the meeting. Instead I’d have to sit and listen to my cousin talk about how her life was going and asking about our lives. The conversation went on and on about life after we left Texas and what I realized is that she talked as if nothing had happened. She continued to bring up my cousin and all the drama she went through with him and all of the women he cheated with and how he was mentally abusing her. It was so bad that eventually they divorced.

As she talked my insides boiled, I dug my nails into my skin to keep my composure because going ballistic would be embarrassing. I excused myself and went to the quiet Starbucks restroom to gather myself and I cried and asked God to help me. All of the work I had done seemed to disappear in an instant and the emotions I felt about the trauma before had returned. I was angry, hurt, and full of hatred for what was done to me. I couldn’t see beyond my anger and it was good that I didn’t have any sharp objects because instead of expressing my anger out loud I would’ve harmed myself in the moment.

I excused myself to go to the restroom to gather my composure. While in the restroom a Starbucks employee bursted into the restroom! I thought I locked the door, however, it was just what I needed to snap out of the dark of my mind and return to the table. We sat in Starbucks for so long that my Sister and I tuned out after a while. My Mom and cousin started talking about other things and I was grateful. My Sister started showing me pictures from Instagram, that was just the distraction I needed.

After all the rounds of drinks and endless conversation I told my Mom I was ready to go. I was done and all I wanted was to just go back to my normal Sunday night dinner and t.v. with my family.

By the time we dropped my cousin off I was tired and tearful and kind of lost. On our way back to our side of town I let down my shield cried and shared my feelings about all that had transpired during the reunion.I was shocked at my reaction and the fact that I was still bitter and wounded. While we discussed the conversation during the reunion my Mom and Sister made a lot of  valid points as to why my cousin didn’t acknowledge how her husband had hurt me. It seemed as if she was suffering  the results of his mental abuse and infidelity throughout their marriage. I would hear bits and pieces about the good things that were going on in his life and I would become angry and resentful because it appeared that he was getting away with murder.

The reunion did not give me the closure I had hoped for, instead it was a wake up call. Although my cousin is dead I realized that I still had not forgiven him and held on to  anger, hurt and resentment towards him and his wife. While I didn’t get the results I had hoped for I was confronted with another layer of my journey that needed work. A long time ago I read this book “Deal With It: You Cannot Conquer What You Will Not Confront”  By Paula White. The reunion was an opportunity to look my past in the face and realize I was still living in bondage to my past.

My journey towards healing is like an onion, there are many layers. For every victory a layer is removed and I am faced with a new layer that needs to be pulled back. So, I am at a crossroad.  Do I continue to hold on to the anger, hurt, and resentment or do I peel the layer of forgiveness?

I want to forgive, because holding on to the anger, hurt, and resentment keeps me bound by my past. The longer I hold on to the trauma the more power I give to someone that is dead. What a waste of energy. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am and going back is not an option for me.

But how do I forgive one of the worst violations? How do I make peace with the reality that  the validation and resolve that I long for will never be? How do I work on not cringing every time I hear his name?  I have been holding on to a lot of bitterness that eats away at my soul.

After my wallowing period I did what I usually do, I asked God to help me forgive. For me peeling this layer of unforgiveness makes my eyes tear up and burn. However, God has given me everything I need to get through this tough layer.

I am on a new journey to forgive. I want freedom from anger, hurt, and unforgiveness and in order for me to be free I must forgive. The first step for me is realizing  forgiveness is not about letting the person “get away with murder”, but  releasing the perpetrator so that I am free.

I choose to forgive all the perpetrators for the sake of my freedom.

-Natalie

 

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