The biggest lesson I learned at a recent writing conference- forgiveness
I didn’t want to go to this ACFW conference. Everyone kept asking me if I was excited, and my honest answer was, “no.” My closest friends were not going. I felt pretty meh about the class offerings. I wanted to go for one class, and to be honest, I wasn’t terribly excited about the rest. But I went.
Years ago, I had a situation with a person that tainted my conference experience. This person had been spreading rumors about me and there were a number of people who were unkind because of it. Someone once asked me, “what did you do to this person,” and my honest answer was, and still is, “I don’t know.” I tried finding out, and I tried fixing it, but I learned that there are some situations and relationships that can’t be fixed. However, because of what I knew was said, I have felt for years like there was a target on my back. I was afraid to talk to people because I didn’t know if these people knew the things said about me. I didn’t know if they believed the rumors.
Several months ago, I had a moment when I realized that I forgive this person. Truly and deeply. I used to have to stop and pray a lot that God would help me forgive. I wondered if I would ever be free. It felt really unfair that to my knowledge, I had done nothing wrong, yet I was stuck with this deep feeling of ick and no matter how hard I tried, how many times I prayed, it wouldn’t leave me. But since my moment of true forgiveness, I have not felt any ick about the situation or toward this person. I even feel, dare I say it, compassion.
When I arrived at the conference, it felt different. I realized, upon my first interaction, that I felt different. The target I thought I once bore with the silent pain borne of not wanting to share for fear of being seen as a gossip no better than the person who’d gossiped about me- that target was gone.
I was able to enjoy the conference- and the people- in a different way. I felt free to be me. I had so many beautiful moments running into friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, and realizing that they accept me for who I am. I spent most of the conference fighting a headache, and at times was disoriented and probably even a little crazy. But the responses were not the ones I feared- so many people showered me with grace and mercy and love.
Even now I have a hard time writing about it. My chest is tight with so many things I can’t express, and my eyes are full. In some ways, I am still too close to the story to tell it. And yet, I need to tell it or else I think my heart will explode.
Here’s why my story is important to you- I know that so many people out there are hurting. You’re bearing the weight of things you don’t know how you came to bear, don’t want to bear, and don’t know how to get rid of. The hope is this: I have spent years praying, struggling, wrestling with this issue. Knowing that what I’m feeling is wrong, but not being able to control it. Those moments have had me on my knees more times than I know how to count. But if you continue drawing near to God and letting Him into those hurting places, He will set you free. I think we sometimes think forgiveness should be an instantaneous thing, and we’re disappointed when it’s not. Continue to press on. It will be worth it.