Forgiving the unforgivable
As we wrapped up our mentoring session that Tuesday night, he approached me with a nervous expression in his eyes. We had just finished a deep discussion on forgiveness. When the other men had left the room, he stood by me, looked down and took a slow breath. I thought to myself, “Finally, he’s going to talk.” He raised his head, exhaled and said, “I will never forgive my father and brother for what they did to me . . . “
Jonathon had come to the rescue mission a few months before that Tuesday night. When I met him, he seemed different than some of the other men that were taking shelter there and were going through their rehabilitation. He was in his late 50’s. Jonathon wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic. He wasn’t in a horrible relationship. He definitely was educated and well spoken. He did seem troubled and confused as most men do that check into The CITA Rescue Mission. Like me, Jonathon had made some bad financial decisions that came back to bite him and he needed a place to reset the bar so he could turn around, get a new job and afford his own place to live. When I met him after I preached at their Monday night chapel, I thought he would be a good addition to our Tuesday night mentoring group.
The first Tuesday that he joined us, he was stone cold silent, which isn’t unusual. But he did listen intently to our discussions about our Christian identity and how we are changed at our core through our heartfelt belief in Jesus’ blood and resurrection. What I didn’t know at the time was that my new friend was from a New England Jewish family. He looked at me quizzically as the twelve of us discussed the new identity we take on through Jesus.
Throughout the next several weeks, Jonathon loosened up and began to ask questions. I saw some confidence building as he was very inquisitive, and I could see him making mental notes of everything we discussed. Then one Tuesday night, before we began our meeting, he informed me and Michael that he was baptized in Jesus the previous Sunday. My heart exploded in praise with his amazing news. That was the night our group began talking about forgiveness.
“ . . . What they did was so horrible, I won’t ever forgive them, and I’ll never talk about it. It’s just too painful.” I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “When the time is right, I know Jesus will help you come to grips with whatever has happened to you. I also know, that as you grow in the knowledge of who you are now in Christ, that you will forgive them, for whatever they did to you, just as, you’ve recently discovered, Jesus forgave you through his blood.” He quickly responded, “I don’t think there is any way that will happen.” I simply winked at him and said he’s going to have a revelation of what true forgiveness means through Christ. I assured him that through prayer and our brotherhood that we would get through this.
We reconvened the next Tuesday and continued our discussions on forgiveness. I have to admit I was watching every move Jonathon made out of the corner of my eye. One brother stood up with revelation of true forgiveness and forgave, in his heart, his ex-wife for cheating on him and taking his money. He told everyone how forgiving her actually set him free emotionally and he was finally able to move forward without the bitterness that always held him back.
Right after that session Jonathon finally pulled me to the side, choked back a tear, and confessed to me how his dad and his brother had sexually molested him for most of his youth. “I was always scared to go home and be alone with my dad each day. What he did to me and what he made me do to him haunt me every day. Whenever we were with neighbors and other friends, I always looked around and wondered if they lived the same life I lived. They must be going through this too. Is this normal life as a child or teenager? I’ll never forgive them and I damn sure won’t reveal this to our group!” We prayed together for peace and strength for my friend. I also prayed to His Spirit to give me a strong heart and the right words to help him through this situation.
The next Tuesday we were wrapping up our discussions on forgiveness. We heard 2 testimonies of men who felt the weights of the world lifted as a result of their forgiveness of someone who had hurt them. I had been in prayer before our meeting about Jonathon in hopes he would have a similar revelation. As our time was winding down, I saw him stir in his seat. He took a deep breath and said, “I need to share something with you all in the confidence and spirit of MPACT. I’ve held onto pain caused by my father and brother when I was young . . . “ Yes, Jonathon, through Christ, confessed his thorn to his trusted brothers in Christ that night. After he gave his testimony, I saw relief in his eyes like I’d never seen before. The chains were breaking.
It was several weeks later when I received a call from Jonathon. He told me he wanted me and brother Michael to meet him at the cemetery. “What an odd request,” I thought. He said he was receiving clarity day by day about his thorn since his baptism and our forgiveness discussions. He asked if we could meet him the next day.
Michael and I pulled into the cemetery. We walked up the hill with Jonathon to the mausoleum and we stopped directly in front of the vaults holding the bodies of his mother and father. Jonathon pulled out a piece of paper and began making a statement. “Mom, I just felt it appropriate to come and address something with you and dad today. First off, don’t be shocked, but I’m now a Christian. Yes, I believe in Jesus as the only way to be with my Heavenly Father. Secondly mom, I apologize for what you are about to hear."
He then turned his attention to his father. “Dad, I don’t know why you did all of those things to me. What you made me do and what was done to me have haunted me my whole life. Your actions to me as a child have affected every part of my being. They made me question myself, blame myself, filled me with shame, confused me regarding my sexuality and have kept me a prisoner in my insecurities and the shame I’ve experienced. But now dad, I believe in Christ. I believe in His bloodshed for my forgiveness. Yes, HE died for me so I can walk free from condemnation and the pain of my experiences with you. So, today I’m here just to let you know I want to be free of that shame, free of the horrible memories and free to walk out a life that I can be proud of. The only way to begin that journey of freedom is to let you know. I forgive you for sexually molesting me all of those years. Yes, I forgive you. As Jesus died on the cross to forgive me of my sins and set me free from my pain, I also forgive you so I can close this chapter of my life and move forward with boldness and confidence that I am God’s child through Christ.” Yes, my friend Jonathon just forgave the unforgivable.
Michael and I prayed with Jonathon as soon as he was finished. I still get goosebumps thinking of that day. The day he let go and set himself free through Christ by forgiving his father for the horrible things he did. Today, Jonathon has moved on from the rescue mission and has been called to start his own ministry to help those who suffered sexual abuse as a child. You can check out his ministry and his story at We Are Survivors, You Are Not Alone on Facebook.
Did you know that one out of six men you know were sexually molested in their youth. Because of Jonathon’s bravery to share his thorn, I also stepped forward to confess that I am one of the six. I had been holding it in for 40 years. Now I've felt a chain break and hit the floor upon confessing this to a brother. The MPACT way.
So, my question is . . . Are you still holding onto to that hate for the person that wronged you? You swear you’ll never forgive him or her for what they did? Are you still bitter and filled with regret, anger and shame? Just imagine how Jesus felt, taking on all of your sin and placing it before God. Sit still for a moment and think of how each drop of blood that rolled out of his body washed you clean in His forgiveness. Jesus’ blood forgave your depravity and reconciled you to The Father. The power of forgiveness is made clear through His blood. And that power is given to you to be able to heal from the sins committed against you. Jesus forgave the unforgivable in you, so you can freely forgive the unforgivable that you experience today. Just like my friend Jonathon.
You can also hear this story on The Grace for Man Podcast.