You don’t know PAIN until you’ve sat and begged God to heal your heart.
I saw that on Instagram the other day and it really hit home…hard.
I once knew a man who was a horrible human being. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. This man, who will remain nameless, did some horrible things to some innocent children. He did some horrible things to someone very close to me. Things that should never be done to anyone. He did things SO bad, that chances are, it will take a lifetime for some of his victims to heal from it…if they ever do. This man got away with it for so long, that years after he violated my friend, he got caught doing it to someone else. YEARS later. (God only knows how many children were victimized in between.). He caught criminal charges, went to trial, and was acquitted. I know that if those thirteen people find someone innocent, the rest of the world is expected to do the same. However, I personally feel, from the very depths of my soul, that this man is guilty. I 100% KNOW he is.
I have carried so much hatred for this man for so long. One of his closest friends (who was used as a character witness in his trial) came in to my workplace one day. I got so bent out of shape over it that I had to take a break and walk outside. My heart started beating fast. I started crying. I literally almost had a panic attack. This man, and his friend, are the type of men that even fellow criminals can’t tolerate. Like some Rob Zombie I-am-the-devil-and-I’m-here-to-do-the-devil’s-work type people. My grudge for these two men runs so deep into my bones, that I was satisfied thinking I would take my hate to the grave.
But a few nights ago, I prayed for them both.
I prayed that they would be happy, healthy, and well.
I don’t know what prompted me to pray for them. Every single time I think about one of them, I can feel the lump in my throat start to rise and I want to vomit. But you know what? My hate for them isn’t effecting them at all. That lump in my throat? Those tears on my cheeks? Those heart palpitations? The nausea? That’s all me. And I promise you, those guys aren’t losing any sleep over it. Because that’s not the type of people they are.
I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to have a heart of stone and lack compassion, remorse, and empathy. I don’t want to be the type of person that is capable of not only hurting someone so deeply, but also, the type of person that doesn’t have an ounce of guilt afterward. I don’t want to be the kind of person that refuses to forgive others. I want to be the kind of girl that looks at one of her enemies and says things like, “bless your heart” and “I’m praying for you” and actually means it. (Side note: I have a quick tongue and a potty mouth. That’s something else I’m really working on. I still have a lot of growing to do.).
In the past, I’ve always thought that if I had a hard heart, that meant that I was tough. It meant that I had thick skin. It meant that nothing could touch me. Let me tell you this: Having a soft heart is a lot harder than blocking out all of the things you truly can’t get over. Anyone can bottle up emotions and feelings and past issues. It takes a true warrior to admit their feelings and face them head on in order to grow. In order to move forward. In order to let go. I thought by hating these people, I was doing myself and their victims some sort of service.
There wasn’t a single time that I can remember, where I thought about these two and didn’t absolutely cringe. My position was, if they were on fire and I had water…I would drink it. No second thought. No forgiveness. No mercy.
Y’all, that load got really heavy. Too heavy to carry alone. And really, too heavy to carry at all. As I do with everything else in my life, I turned to prayer.
It’s a good thing that God knows our hearts, because I’m pretty sure my prayer (or plea), was all over the place.
At first, my goal was just to pray for these fellas. Holy. Crap. I knew I didn’t like them but dang! I had no idea how difficult it would be to practice a genuine prayer. Even my prayer voice in my head was sarcastic. She was all, “Dear God, please be with these two jerk off’s and bla bla bla…”, complete with eye roll. I didn’t mean any of it and at first, it just ticked me off even more. I was only doing it because I felt like I should and you guys, that’s no way to pray. That’s not how I usually talk to God. I have worked so hard growing in my Faith the last few years and I refuse to let any ice in my heart hinder my relationship with Him.
So I started over and this time, I prayed for myself first.
I prayed that God would help me understand my feelings and help me heal. I asked God to help me be genuine in my prayers for them. I asked Him to remove the hate from my heart and the tears from my eyes. I prayed that He would wrap an arm around all of the children (and now adults) that were made to feel helpless by this man’s abuse. I prayed that God would give us all the strength to forgive these men, just as He forgives us. I prayed for Him to help me release this load.
I read something in a book one time and it has always stuck with me:
“However much time you spend talking to God, you gotta spend the same amount of time listening to God. You gonna take time to talk, you gotta take time to listen.”
I spent a few moments after my prayer, silent. Listening. I listened to everything around me. I listened to my breathing. I focused on my heart beat. And I listened to my inner voice. My hardened heart.
For the first time in a really long time, I no longer hated the man I had once sworn didn’t deserve to live. I didn’t love him…but I didn’t hate him either. In a way, I almost felt sorry for him. I just don’t understand how someone can be consumed with so much evil and still be able to sleep at night. Maybe I’ll never understand it. But now, I don’t have to, because I’m working on letting it go. It’s almost like…I’m free.
I asked one of his victims one time how she was able to move on. Her response was, “Terri, I just gave it to God. I had to let it go. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed and one day I was just…okay.”.
One day she was just okay.
I love this woman, my friend who was abused, just like I love my sisters. Hearing about the awful things she went through absolutely shattered my heart. But her strength? Hearing about the things she survived? I was awestruck. I still am. Even after everything that happened to her, her Faith remained unshook. Never once did she get mad at God. If anything, she grew closer to Him. For as long as I’ve known her, she has radiated the love of Jesus. That, right there, takes the heart of a lion.
The Lord forgives us. Over and over and over again. And He listens to us and He answers prayers. Maybe not always in the way we wanted or expected, but He always takes care of us. He is that good. Being that good is not humanly possible. We all know this.
But what would happen if we tried?
What if our hearts weren’t heavy with darkness? What if we forgave each other quickly and entirely? What if we knocked those chips off our shoulders? What if we never held on to a grudge? What if we let go of the baggage?
Because that’s exactly what hate is. Baggage.
I don’t want a heavy heart, you guys. I want to walk through life believing humans are still decent. I want to walk through life being able to give people the benefit of the doubt. I want to help strangers. I want to trust people. I want to be a positive influence and let people see the love of Jesus through me. I want to be a good person and dutiful daughter to the King. I want to be happy. And I want to be someone that my God, myself, and my family can be proud of. I want to be a woman with grace that my daughters can look up to. And I want to be a strong example for my son.
I can’t reach my full potential of woman, wife, mother, believer…with so much frost on my heart. I have to let it go.
Praying for someone you have grown to despise can be painful. I literally almost became physically ill the first time I did it. It physically hurt. Even if God didn’t already know everything, He would have still been able to pick up on my disgust.
But this is where your strength comes in. This is where you dig down deep and find the soldier spirit you’ve been given.
It takes courage to forgive. It takes courage to admit you need help confronting these demons. It takes courage to know you can’t go to battle with yourself, by yourself.
And here’s the thing: You carry these emotions. Not your enemies. You have these feelings. Not your enemies. And you are holding all of this extra weight. Not your enemies. So how is this helping you reach your full potential? How is this helping your spiritual growth? Or any kind of growth for that matter?
It’s not. And if you’re looking toward the future, it’s not going to help you there, either.
Pray for yourself. Pray for God to change your heart so you can grow to be the person He intended you to be. Pray for your enemies, even if you don’t think you’ll ever be able to forgive them. Even if you don’t want to. Even if it hurts. Pain is a sign of growth and sometimes, it can be a form of healing. An open wound can hurt. But a healed scar is a reminder of just how far you’ve come.
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