“There was right, there was wrong. Now there is you.” – Hercule Poirot
(Murder on the Orient Express)
It deeply hurts…
They did that to me…
The wound still bleeds when it is bumped or scratched…
Can you remember their words and actions? How long did it take you to forgive them? We may have said, “I forgive you,” but the effects still linger. A picture on Facebook, a comment from a sermon, a song, a movie scene, or anything can trigger that wound to bleed again. We forgive the actions, but it is difficult to forgive the effects of someone’s actions towards us.
We hold them enslaved to their effects on our life. We no longer want to lost control when we are triggered, so we decide to cage and control them. It may not be physical control, but we cage them and hold them responsible for the bleeding that still happens.
Sometimes, we even sit in the shadows ready to strike out in revenge. Yet, how does that make us feel? We walk around with people chained to us.
Can we let go? Can we release them, not only from the facts, but from the effects?
The Enslaving Cage
We remember the days we have told the other of our forgiveness. We forgave the facts of their action. But, is that enough? We still bleed. We still hurt. The effects of offenses carry like bandaged wounds on our soul.
Yet, we do not want them off the hook so easily. So what we do is we cage the offender and enslave them to how they have made us feel now. Our normal has been erased, and they are responsible for our new normal. We cage them to keep power over them. They put us in this mess, so they will build our story, our resolves, and our decisions. Enslaving the offender will build us up as we use them for our good.
How good does it feel to use the offender to build our life up? It gives us power that they do not have power.
We become like a character in Scripture none of us want to admit we are like.
Exodus 5-12 shows us the showdown between Moses and the Pharaoh of Egypt. Pharaoh listens day after day to Moses telling him to let the Israelite people go. Does he? No. We all know this story. “He didn’t, because Pharaoh had a hard heart.” How many of us have heard this as the reason for his unwillingness to let the people go?
I have! Plenty of times I have been told, “Do not harden your heart like Pharaoh when God asks you to do something.” While that is a good thing, and we do not want to end up with a hard heart, what if we are like Pharaoh in a different way?
What would Pharaoh lose if he let the enslaved Israelites go? We get a glimpse of it in Exodus 1:11. The people were enslaved in order to build an empire. An empire brings power. Even though a different Pharaoh came to the throne when Moses returned to Egypt, the same mindset applies. He did not want to lose the people who were building his empire and giving him means to his power. The more they built, the more Pharaoh could display his power and control.
Pharaohs built temples, statues, and hieroglyphic murals to themselves boasting of their power. If someone got in their way, then that individual was executed and was seen no more.
I Will Not Let Go
Many of us would say we are not hardhearted towards God, but we are like Pharaoh in another way. We do not want to let go of the people who are building our empire. Sure, it may not be a physical nation or city. But, it is the story we tell. It is how we portray someone in order to show we are the better person.
We have forgiven the facts, but the effects cause us to enslave them to build our story. We want power over them, so we cage them. We are like Pharaoh. When God comes to us asking us to release those people into forgiveness, we do not want to.
It is so difficult to let go of the offender. They have made your story, they have made your power, and to lose that means you will lose your power over them.
My Offenders Released
God has convicted me of this lately. So many people in my life have hurt me. Deep wound cut across my heart. I remember the day I said, “I forgive you” to each of them. But, what have I done?
To soothe the triggers and effects of their actions, I keep throwing them under the bus. I use them to promote my own story. Yes, I have a story of hurt. But, what does it do when I constantly throw it in their face? I control them to build my power and image; just like Pharaoh.
Did Jesus and the Apostles do that? Did they throw the Religious Leaders completely under the bus to show how bad they are? No. They moved on and focused on Christ and his redemption. When I focus on the hurt, I do not focus on Christ.
Secretly, I want them to always know what they have done by keeping them enslaved.
My high school hurt me and bullied me. My college chained me to legalism. My parents deeply hurt me and rejected me. A recovery group asked me to leave due to my struggle with same-sex attraction. A person used my past against me to lose an opportunity. All of this hurts. Believe me, it hurts. But, how often to I keep them in order to use them to build my power?
To all of these people. I am sorry for holding this to you. I forgive you. Will you forgive me? I do not guarantee your wounds will not bleed again. I cannot promise I will forget. But, I will no longer use you to build my empire. You are a part of the story; not the foundation.
My testimony is not being hurt by you. My testimony is coming from death to life through Jesus.
Writing Our Story
Our life story is filled with people who hurt us. Yet, it is how we portray them and use them in our story which shows if we have forgiven them. If it all becomes about them, then we have enslaved them. If the focus is how we have healed and are growing, then we show we have forgiven them.
A story will be told. It is filled with many characters, but it is how those characters are portrayed which shows our heart. It will be difficult.
What is the focus of our story? In writing it, what is the heart the chapters lead us to? Is it back to hurt or back to Jesus?
Setting Your Captives Free
Two movie scenes visualized in my mind as I wrestled with this.
The first, is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As Elsa takes the Holy Grail across the seal, an earthquake splits the ground. She goes after the Grail and ends up losing her life. Watch this scene to see what happens…
When we hurt, we want justice. Even if it’s not an illegal action done to us, we do hold them hostage to their actions even after we forgave them. We want to use them to give us power. We chase that “justice” until the point of us hurting ourselves. We need to let it go. Tell the story, but do not use our story to pursue a false justice. Let God take care of it.
The other scene is from Murder on the Orient Express. A gang leader is murdered. Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, sets off to solve the case. Yet, he finds out (spoiler warning) every suspect was involved. Each person is connected to a little girl this gang leader kidnapped and murdered. The grandmother is the mastermind of the plan. In this scene, Poirot says something very profound.
“There was right, there was wrong. Now there is you.” How often do we see right and wrong and make ourselves stand outside of those two sides? We rally people around us to cage those who’ve hurt us. What justice is that? It is still enslaving them to what we need to forgive. It leaves us focused on hurt rather than the Healer of our soul.
Forgiving the facts of hurt is easier than forgiving the effects. Our story must be written with redemption as the center; not the hurt creating the gravitational pull.
We cannot heal unless Jesus becomes the center. Psalm 18:19 promises us a spacious place of freedom God will place us when he rescues us from the wicked. What if the wicked is ourselves? What if God wants to rescue us from our own unforgiveness and enslaving of others in order to bring us to that spacious and free place?
I have been hurt. This year, 2021, has been filled with hurt. Yet, my story can no longer gravitate towards the hurt. Instead, it must focus on the Healer, Jesus. I must release them as the main characters in order to move towards Jesus. What they did hurt, but it is not the direction of my story. My life is not built on the enslaving offender. It is founded on the rock who heals me and redeems me.
I release them. I let them go.
Are you in a similar place? Who builds your life – your offenders or your savior?
Are you willing to release them?