A Message of Forgiveness from Philemon
Please be warned that today’s post touches on some painful memories. As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s blog post, I’m going to make myself vulnerable to you because I believe someone out there needs to understand in no uncertain terms that God is interested in every situation and in every life. And there is nothing so big, so ugly, and so horrible, that He cannot transform it into something beautiful. Your situation may be far worse than mine, but God is bigger than your problems. Please let that sink in as you read my story.
A Story of Disillusionment
My husband is my Onesimus. He and I have been married nearly 23 years, and we went through some rather difficult trials in the early years of our marriage. Without going into detail, he deceived me, betrayed me, and physically hurt me. In retaliation, I hurled venomous words at him and even punched him repeatedly in the back—in a parking lot with people watching no less. It was not pretty. We went to counseling, talked it out, kissed and made up. Or so I thought. The overt abuse stopped, but apathy and indifference took its place. A barrier to communication and love remains to this day, and the oneness I long for—we long for—is absent.
All too often the memory of those early days gets dredged back to the surface of my mind. Each time, the scab is torn off anew and I bleed like crazy. That, my friends, is not forgiveness. If I had truly forgiven him, why is the pain still so fresh? I’m ashamed to talk about it because everyone else moved on long ago, and you’d think I would have too. Instead, I chose to bottle it up inside, push my way through each day, raise our children and send them off into the world, then wait for widowhood to free me from this dreadful existence. Divorce is not an option because I’m in Christian service, and I wish to remain so. The way I have chosen is no way to live, but I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to forgive him, but I didn’t know how. Perhaps I’ve been waiting for him to be sorry for what he did. Or perhaps I’ve simply closed my eyes to my own guilt.
A Message of Hope
This past Sunday the assistant pastor at our church brought a message of forgiveness which pierced my heart. It was Part 2 of a 3-part series on the book of Philemon, and this time the focus was on Onesimus, or rather, on Philemon’s receiving and forgiving of Onesimus. The message itself was much needed, but God preached a private message to me under the current of the sermon going out to the crowd. As I read the short epistle, it seemed the Holy Spirit was altering the text ever so slightly to make it personal. Here is what the passage said to my soul…
God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, unto Angela our dearly beloved and fellow laborer, Grace to you, and peace. I am thankful for you, seeing your love and faith which you have toward Me and toward all saints; that the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For I have great joy and consolation in your love, because the spirits of the saints are refreshed by you, sister. Wherefore, though I could just as easily, and with perfect right, command you, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech you, as your Father, for My son Patrick, whom I have begotten by My precious blood; who in times past was to you unprofitable, but now profitable both to you and to Me…. Therefore receive him whom I so tenderly love. I would have removed him from this earth, taking him to be with Me in heaven, but for now it is more needful that he remain there with you…. Yet without your mind would I do nothing, that your benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. True, he does not do everything just as he ought, but he is My child. Therefore receive him, not simply as your husband, but above a husband, a brother beloved, especially to Me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord? If you count Me therefore worthy as your Father, receive him as Myself. If he has wronged you, put that on My account; I the Lord have written it with My own hand, I will repay it; though I do not say to you how you owe me even your own life besides. Dear sister, let me have joy of you; refresh My heart. Having confidence in your obedience I wrote to you, knowing that you will also do more than I say…. I am with you always, and I will never forsake you…. My grace is sufficient for you. Amen.
I’ll talk more about this later, but today I just wanted to leave you with this message from our heavenly Father. This was convicting to me, and right away I started to feel the ice melt away from my heart. “If he has wronged you, put that on My account: I the Lord have written it with My own hand, I will repay it.” I have no reason to hold a grudge. Jesus Christ paid the debt for all my sins and for all my husband’s sins too. We both stand forgiven. Forgiven people forgive. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s for Monday.
Dear Reader, are you also holding onto a grudge against someone in your life? Read the letter above, inserting the appropriate names and relationships in the place of mine, and let the Holy Spirit begin to soften your heart. Together you and I can walk this road to forgiveness and healing.
And those of you for whom this is not a problem, please pray for us. I’m tired of living with my eyes fixed on the horizon because I can’t stand the view around me. I’m ready for something better. God certainly wants something better for my family and me. And by His grace, I am ready to take the first baby step of faith toward forgiveness.