“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing.” The spirit of Christ’s words rose like smoke from a heart on fire.
“I forgive you,” I wrote, “There is no debt between us.” The words must have come from the Holy Spirit, because my words didn’t sound so holy.
To release someone from a debt is to tear up the ledger. To say, “You owe me nothing,” when on paper, that person owes you more than he can repay.
When we are betrayed, we must run to Jesus because He knows the bitter taste of betrayal. Sometimes I wonder if it’s on His tongue still. But of course it’s not, because He spit out the taste of betrayal with surrender and compassion. Knowing God’s ways are not our ways, He gave those who hurt Him to God. Releasing someone of a debt because he “knew not what he was doing,” is to say — he is blinded to what he is doing right now, so God, set him free from this, lest the shadows of shame follow him the rest of his days.
What if God didn’t forgive me of the times when I was blinded? What if he held against me those things I did to hurt myself and others? What if he refused to let me off the hook?
How do you forgive yourself of something you regret? How do you not let shame follow you?
In the office of a counselor in my early thirties, I learned how. Teeming with regret over something long in my past as a young woman, I sat there, a mother of two, tears streaming.
“Exit your own body,” the counselor told me, “Fly high. Now, look down and see that girl you once were. Watch her from afar.”
I watched her, and as I did, my heart swelled with compassion. She was so foolish. So blinded, so duped.
I had so much compassion for that girl, I couldn’t help but give her the gift of forgiveness.
The first time I spoke in prison, I noticed the prisoners were called “Offenders.”
When we do not forgive our offenders, we throw them in prison. So they live behind bars, but what about us?
We are the ones who are tortured by our refusal to forgive.
Jesus put it this way: “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
When the servant refuses to offer his fellow man the gift of forgiveness, “in anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” (Read Matthew 18:21-34)
Jesus brings it home (and ouch it hurts): “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
To type the words “U R Forgiven” may be the beginning, but at the end of the day, each letter must be seared on the tablet of our hearts.
Since those early days in the counseling office, I’ve learned that when you can picture your “offender” and your heart is moved with compassion for him, you have forgiven.
Love is patient and love is kind and all that. Love is not selfish, and love is not about us.
But in my life, true love is forgiveness. It is looking at someone with a sky-high view and having such grace for them you cannot help but release them from their mistakes. When you can look them in the eye and let them know they are forgiven, that’s the key to unlocking their prison.
In the Spirit, we can release each other. We can build an altar that says, “There is nothing but the Spirit between us. And from the fire of that altar, beauty will rise.
From the smoke of His heart, His Words to you and me are: U R Forgiven.
At first, the smoke might seem bitter. But the higher it rises, the sweeter the taste.
[Photo Credits: Rebecca Friedlander]
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”