Accepting Forgiveness

This is the point where God stepped in. Where my downward spiral ended and God began to gently pull me out of my despair. God reached out to me. He relentlessly pursued me when I wasn’t seeking to be pursued. When I had given up on myself.  He brought people into my life to pull me out of my depression. My pastor recommended a Christian female counselor at my church who specialized in sexual abuse and I met with her on a regular basis. I started to process what had happened. I stopped blaming myself. For the first time in my life I started to experience God’s overwhelming love for me. Not amidst my own perfection or worthiness, amidst my complete brokenness.

So much pain and anger I have felt because of the rape had been aimed at myself. I struggled with forgiving myself. I stopped blaming myself for the rape, but I was very angry with myself for sticking it out and trying to “fix” things. How could I have done that? Why did I do that?   How could I have been so trusting? How did I not see his intentions? How could I have been so naïve? Why did I sleep with him after he raped me? Why didn’t I turn and run? Why didn’t I seek help? Why didn’t I tell someone? Why am I surprised and disappointed now at what I did? Why did I have such a hard time forgiving myself? Because I believed in myself. I am undone.  I did not know where to go from there, but I gave it up to God.

I prayed for forgiveness repeatedly, but I felt like I had done something unforgiveable. I will never forget driving home one day and hearing a song on the radio. It was “What Sin?” by Morgan Cryar. As he sang the chorus: “What sin, what sin? That’s as far away as the east is from the west. What sin, what sin? It was gone the very minute you confessed. Buried in the sea of forgetfulness.” Tears ran down my face. I was repeating the same prayer, asking for forgiveness for something that had already been forgiven. I am so grateful for God’s willingness and mercy to forgive. How foolish I felt not freely receiving His forgiveness. I think my unwillingness to accept his forgiveness stemmed from my own unwillingness to forgive myself.

I spent a lot of time hung up on forgiveness and anger toward myself. Eventually once I accepted God’s forgiveness, God began working on my heart to forgive myself. If God was willing to forgive me, then who am I to hold myself to an even higher standard than God? I started to realize oddly enough that pride was preventing me from forgiving myself. I was too proud to admit that I am broken and sinful. Should I be shocked when I sin? Yes and no. Obviously, as a Christian we should strive to live a sinless life, but we are innately sinful people. Romans 3:23 tells us: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (NIV).” 1 John 1:8-9 says: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (NIV).” However, as Christians we can live a life of victory over sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul encourages us:

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (NIV).

As Christians, God will always give us the strength to resist temptation. However, even when we fail, even when we are unfaithful, He is faithful. He forgives. If God can forgive me, who am I that I should not be willing to forgive myself? I confessed to God my own sinfulness, my pride, and asked Him to help me forgive myself as He had forgiven me. I finally started to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness. Fully accepting God’s forgiveness allowed me to forgive myself. To move toward greater freedom.

My Pastor admonished his congregation in a sermon to praise God if he has allowed you to go through great trials to strengthen your faith and help you to rely on God. I can’t see myself praising God for what has happened, but I can see so many things God has changed in me and how much he has taught me. It was the most horrible experience I have ever had, the most frightening, the most painful, the most humbling and it has caused me to depend more upon God than ever before.

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