The Freedom of Forgiveness

Although it was six years ago, it’s still fresh in my mind- the day that the man who murdered my father received his official guilty sentence- life in prison. He was sentenced to 60 years of his life, not free, but behind bars, given a great opportunity to think on his actions for the rest of his life on this earth.

The murder occurred in November 2008, so it took many years for the sentence to be finalized. While many of my dad’s side of the family still doesn’t fully understand, I chose not to become involved in the pursuit of making sure that this man “paid for what he had done.”

There was much commotion and to be quite frank, drama, via social media between family members over the course of a few days that resulted in hateful and bitter comments regarding events in my dad’s life that occurred almost 20 years ago- my parent’s divorce being one of them. My heart was heavy to think that in the midst of such tragedy, people would choose to argue over issues that they have no control over any longer, and truthfully, no business being involved in whatsoever. The tragedy of losing my father actually paled in comparison to the unforgiveness and bitterness that surfaced between my family members.

Unforgiveness is bondage.

It is a yoke that slowly tightens around our neck and chokes the life out of us.

Bitterness is like a cancer that spreads throughout your whole body and affects you completely and everything and everyone around you.

We are given many opportunities every single day to take the bait to become offended and hold grudges, but it is so important that we hold onto Jesus and His powerful Word- God’s perfect truth.

The Apostle Paul explains to us the freedom we find in Christ and urges us to not become entangled in sin in Galatians 5:1:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (ESV).

Although Paul is not speaking of unforgiveness specifically in this verse, we do know that unforgiveness is sin that will separate us from God.

Jesus explains to us at the end of the Lord’s Prayer:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6: 14-15, NIV

Allowing unforgiveness to hold you captive keeps you from fellowshipping with your Heavenly Father and keeps you from walking in total freedom that Jesus died for us to have.

When He was crucified and His blood poured out to accomplish God’s ultimate salvation plan for the world (John 3:16), our sins were thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and we no longer had to be slaves to sin- we were made free! 

When we stand before God in prayer (and eventually at the end of this life here on earth), He sees what Jesus has done. He sees His Son’s precious blood, and the price that Jesus paid with His very life just so that you and I could have a relationship with Our Heavenly Father through Christ.

So why would we deliberately choose bondage by allowing unforgiveness and bitterness to plague our hearts and hinder fellowship with God and the love of others?

I don’t know who you may need to forgive. I don’t know how deep the pain goes, how big or small the offense may be. I don’t know how long you have carried that burden with you, but I do know that you need to forgive, and you don’t have to do it in your own strength. God has given you the Holy Spirit to help you, to heal you, to change your heart. You are given the choice to be the one to make the move. You must choose to forgive. Don’t wait. Do it today. Do it right now. You will experience such great freedom that Jesus so passionately laid down His life for you to have.

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I Was That Girl

I was only 12 years old when I began giving myself away, piece by piece.  First it was pornography and cybersex; then it slowly moved toward physical sexual encounters. I continued this behavior for a whole decade of my life, until I was about 22.

For most of my youth, I never felt my dad loved me. He was an on-again-off-again alcoholic, and I know it was that missing piece in my life that made me long for genuine love and acceptance.  And as I grew up, I constantly pursued approval and attention from boys.

I dealt with rejection, depression, anxiety and a giant void in my heart I didn’t know how to fill.  I quickly became ensnared by alcohol abuse and did many dangerous things that only served to create glue-strong attachments to other people — things like an adulterous relationship with a married man and countless one-night stands with random men I followed home from the bar.

Filling the Void

In college, my love for theater and acting became my means of escaping my desire to be truly accepted. I tried to find fulfillment in the fantasy relationships I had with others on stage and attempted to make real off stage. But my pride caused me to fall in love with myself, trying to satisfy the emptiness that refused to be filled.

I knew John 3:16 by heart, but I didn’t fully understand it. I knew Jesus died so that I may be forgiven and restored back to the Father, but I just couldn’t shake the religious upbringing that taught me only about a vengeful, angry God who would smite me down if I were not perfect.

I still felt like I had to work for forgiveness and acceptance. And love. That performance-driven mentality affected all areas of my life. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, I never felt good enough.

I reached a point where I stopped trying and just lived. I made plans to run away to Los Angeles. I would be an actress and prove to the world my worth, talent, beauty and charm. But, one Sunday morning, only a couple months after I graduated from college, my eyes were truly opened to my selfish and sinful existence.

I hadn’t been to church in years, but one morning I went with my mom and sister. During the worship service, I began to experience this deep conviction that I was living a reckless and selfish life and that I had been running away from God. It was my prodigal son moment…I came to my senses and the end of myself (Luke 15). Immediately, I knew I needed to repent and start running toward Him, back into the Father’s arms. In that moment, I realized where I truly belonged. Right there, with hands lifted in worship, and tears streaming down my face, I repented of my pride and rebellion; I told God that I didn’t want to live this life on my own anymore, and that I wanted to surrender to His plan.

Faith at a Crossroad

As I began to loosen my grip on my plans for my life one finger at a time, God began showing me that His plans were so much better than my own. I finally laid down my prideful desires to become an actress in Los Angeles and committed to truly follow Jesus, wherever that led, for the first time in my life.

But only a few short months after this change began in my heart, I received some traumatic news- someone murdered my father outside of a strip club. His lifestyle landed him in the wrong crowd, and it tragically cost him his life.

That’s when my faith reached a crossroad.

I could either believe Jesus was my solid rock, my firm foundation, or allow my father’s murder to completely shake me and destroy me. God gave me the strength to believe. At my father’s funeral, I read one of his favorite poems, “Footprints in the Sand,” and I told my family to trust in Jesus; He would be the One to carry us through this tragedy.

Total Healing

Since my father’s passing, I have not stopped running toward God. I find refuge in His presence, and I ask daily for help to walk in His will. I try my best to make it a priority to study His Word, and spend time in worship and prayer, but only by His grace am I able to do that.

God has completely healed me, delivered me, transformed me and overwhelmed me with His great love. He is the Father I always wanted — the One who will never leave me or reject me.

I don’t work for forgiveness anymore; now I fully receive His grace and forgiveness. I know I have been forgiven of so much, and I long to be so filled with God’s love that it pours out of me to everyone I meet. I want others to know they can never outrun His love. I know I sure tried that, and I learned that no one can ever be too far gone for God to fulfill His purpose in me.

I speak from experience when I say nothing in this world will ever be able to satisfy like God’s love does. Now I get it: Nothing can ever separate us from Him. Nothing. We don’t have to work for His love or prove ourselves worthy of it. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

I once struggled to find my identity in Christ, and I know I’m not the only one. But let me tell you, the greatest position you will ever stand in is being a child of God.

I once struggled to find my identity in Christ, and I know I’m not the only one. But let me tell you, the greatest position you will ever stand in is being a child of God.


“I Was That Girl” was first featured in Shattered Magazine (Fall 2015 issue, print edition).

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