There was a time I carried a wide load of unforgiveness. It affected my ability to make friends, to find a job. It effected everything. I remember sitting down with a pastor who patiently listened to my struggles as my tears flowed. He was sitting on his side of the desk, in his office. I sat in the “students” chair. I was lost in the middle of loosing control. I knew I needed help, so I reached out to him. In summary, the issue was unforgiveness. He told me to create a forgiveness chart over the next week and we would meet again and then pray through it.
I remember listening to him explain the process that I was choosing to submit myself too. My heart was pounding, facing offenses I had carried for a long time and others a short time, offenses that shaped how I saw myself and my decisions. I forgot dreams, lost authentic joy and true peace. I just slept and cried all the time. I drew up a chart on a piece of college ruled note paper. (If you couldn’t tell already, this was a while ago.) I folded it in half, wrote down names on the left side, and wrote down my pain & disappointments on the other side. The pastor told me to prayerfully consider who should be on my chart. He also said to include everyone and everything you can think of, don’t leave anything out, and ask God to remind you of things that might be affecting you, but you don’t realize are affecting you.
So the day came, I went into his office and presented the folded up piece of paper. He didn’t take it from me. He didn’t need the details of my dirty laundry. I held it in my hands. He instructed me to pray for each person, and say out loud “I forgive (name #1)…” Let’s just say I was a mess, at the very least. There were moments I had to pause, either to breathe and cry, or because I so bad didn’t want to say “I forgive (name #2)…”
I remember being exhausted when it was over, I had filled up the entire page, and prayed over each word written. You see this whole experience left me exhausted because I WENT TO WAR! I was fighting for my peace, for my freedom, and my future. It wasn’t easy, and I don’t cry pretty, but my heart was pretty after the smoke had cleared.
Recently I have had many opportunities to share this story and encourage others to do the same thing. That is why I am posting this! We all need support, we all need the Lord to work on our behalf and this process shifted something in my life. I had learned how to be and had become a forgiver instead of someone carrying offenses.
There are two things that significantly helped me fight my battle: First, Accountability. I had a friend who was wiser than me, and whose faith was stronger than mine. Not someone saying “it’s time to be perfect,” but someone who got up from his side of the desk, and came and sat by me. He listened to my cries and agreed with my prayers. He followed the forgiveness chart with me, helping me stay in place when I needed to wipe the smearing makeup from my eyes. The other thing about accountability that I appreciated was that it brought this sense that I wasn’t fighting alone and I didn’t win alone. Someone knew God had performed a miracle in my life, so when I felt alone or emotional again, I had someone to remind me of where I had been, and that YES! I DID FORGIVE, I DID GIVE GOD CONTROL. They can also be a friendly reminder to not take back the offense.
Secondly, The Forgiveness Chart. I think an organized mind can fight a spiritual battle better than an unorganized mind. Creating a chart made it easy for me to see what prayers I needed to pray, and kept my thoughts focused no matter how emotional I was. It even revealed what conversations I needed to have, and what relationships I needed to restore for continual healing. The forgiveness chart wasn’t the end of my journey, it was the beginning. It also showed me what I could control and what I couldn’t.
Let me be honest, I’m not trying to diagnose anyone, but I know a heart prone to carrying offense when I see one, because I HAD ONE. The bible tells us “offenses will come,” and what we do with them is very important. Let me be honest, again, I HAD a heart prone to carrying offense, over the years I have learned how to forgive quicker and without crying or needing a chart. It’s about creating a habit, clarifying the person and situation that hurts and talking to God about it, asap. Yes, my feelings get hurt, but what I do with hurt feelings & hard times is what gives me freedom. My choices shape my life, instead of my feelings.
If you are feeling continually exhausted, I encourage you to ask yourself if there is someone or something you haven’t forgiven. Unaddressed offenses will tear you down before you realize that is even the problem. Many times, we will face physical symptoms or relational struggles, before we realize the true source is unforgiveness. (Maybe you need to forgive yourself?) If you have fear, maybe it’s because something or someone told you that you wouldn’t amount to anything. Unforgiveness will break courage. It’s time to face the fear, my friend, because forgiveness restores broken courage.
I created a forgiveness chart for you with instructions. It’s basic, not pretty, I don’t know who created the very first “forgiveness chart”, but it is a powerful tool if you’ll use it! Print out as many as you want or just continue the chart on the other side of your paper. Call a friend, make the time, YOU ARE WORTH IT. Does that make sense?
“For we are not fighting against flesh & blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in the dark world, and agains evil spirits in heavenly places.” Eph. 6:10 NLT.
Photo by Tina Floersch.