From brokenness and bitterness to forgiveness—the best advice I ever received

From brokenness and bitterness to forgiveness—the best advice I ever received
Forgiveness--the 'F' word we can use

My life almost thirty years ago now today almost seems unreal. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that the woman I am now was the young, naive girl I was then. When I think of my childhood of happy moments playing in my backyard laying in the grass watching the clouds pass by, I never knew that a short time later drinking, sex, drugs, babies, black eyes, and illness would become a lifestyle for me. I almost wanna go back in time and grab that little girl who’d hoped and believed so much in her promising future as a ballerina, gymnast, dancer, or oceanographer, and just run far, far, away with her. But I can’t do that. She is me, this is now, and life goes on.

I can’t put my finger on the exact time and way that my life changed, but it did. Well, actually I can, but there are certain truths that must go unspoken simply for my life to remain sane. Opening Pandora’s box wouldn’t just let out a whole lot of details about my life, it would do the same for others in my family, and this is something we just don’t do. There are some things better left unsaid–at least that’s how the expression goes–so there are many hurts and pains I’ve had to apply the balm of forgiveness on by myself with no validation.  That’s probably one of the most difficult acts of forgiveness, but I’m jumping ahead. Considering and practicing forgiveness was, and is, a process and it’s something I must choose to do daily.  I don’t always make the right choices though.  I am, only, human.

Place your past hurts in God's hands and let God cover it all. He can.

Place your past hurts in God’s hands and let God cover it all. He can.

But before I even knew what forgiveness was, or that it was something I was going to have to do for my life to move forward, the first thing I had to do was acknowledge that my life had taken a wrong turn. I HAD TO WAKE UP.  I don’t know if sudden life changes in my family caused me to become unconscious emotionally, to be honest, I really don’t know. All I know is I was a little girl who wanted a amazing adult life just like anybody else, but it wasn’t. My life wasn’t normal. In the life I was living, I was headed to somebody’s jail, or mental institution, or to the grave. That I am clear about.

Nevertheless, after having countless black eyes and busted lips, or having my hair yanked out, being spit on, tortured, burned, choked, and strangled, one day, I simply woke up.  Like Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ out of a pit of mud, bugs, slime, and filth, I came out of nothing, determined to change my life, and my daughter’s lives, for the better.  But again, I’m skipping ahead, because that too, was a process.

Before all of that happened, I would be beaten with hangers, or drenched with charcoal lighter fluid in my abuser’s attempt to set me on fire.  I would be raped by him. Stalked by him. There were some days I was put out of my own house with him refusing to let me in in the bitter cold.  How on earth I am alive today is a mystery to even me. I can attribute it to nothing other than the grace of God, for surely without God, I would be dead.

I weep openly and deeply as I write this.

How did that little south side backyard girl in the private school become the north side high school drop out on welfare?  That was never in my life plan.

Yet, somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through.

My mom used to give me lots of books to read after I got my own place up north. Most of the time I didn’t have a phone, at that time I had no car, I’d dropped out of school, I really had nothing but a nice apartment. That was it. At 18, 19, and 20 yrs old, this was a featured amenity of friendship with me. Most of my friends hadn’t had babies by then, and so there I was with my nice 2-bedroom apartment, and they’d all flock there when my public aid check day hit. I’d have money for food for the month, and all my loving and supportive friends would come by and eat it all in a weekend. Yeah, those were the days…

That is sarcasm.

Forgiveness is the key to healing and going forward

Forgiveness is the key to healing and going forward

During the times they weren’t there, I’d read those books. She used to joke that she’d give me and my sister books and we’d use them as coasters, but I really did read them. There was a story inside one of them of a woman in an abusive relationship–nothing like mine–but she wanted out. That guy was yelling at her and made her feel bad about herself, and she wanted to get out of the relationship, but she was tied to him financially. I began saying these affirmations, and in what seemed like no time, he simply moved on, and she found the means to support herself. It was remarkable, that seemed to me. It was a miracle!  And that’s what I needed. For my life to change, I was going to need nothing other than a full-fledged miracle.  I began to use the strategies from the book and say affirmations like this:

I now release you to the Universe to be the best person you can be, so that I can be the best person I can be. I am free to live my life as God would have me to live, and I release you to do the same. I am not afraid of the future. I am willing to go forward in faith.  I forgive you. I forgive myself. I am free.

I got that book for Christmas.

Three months later I was free.

That was the easy part.

The real work comes in at the most surprising places and times.  Most people think that it’s impossible to forgive someone who’s treated you so terribly, but for me, that has been the easiest part. The real work has been extending love, kindness, and forgiveness to that little girl inside of me who loved watching the clouds pass by who’d dreamed of grandeur and prosperity. It has taken a lot of healing for me to forgive my abuser as well. But in the end, after all was said and done, I see him as a lost and broken boy who once dreamed of a better life than he was living while torturing me. Maybe we were two lost souls who became united to learn something deeper than we’ll ever understand. I know it’s possible. Much of God’s love is unfathomable, and just too deep to even comprehend. I see that in my life.

As hard as it may feel, and as hard as it may seem, I’ve learned that there is no justified unforgiveness.  I know there are heinous, vicious things people have done. And I do know that there are consequences for every action we take, but in the end, there is no one thing that can’t be forgiven. It all has to go under the blanket of love God gives.

Sometimes painful memories can be like land mines and I take one step and something unexpected just blows up in my face reminding me of all the hurt and pain I’ve been through and I think, “See, this is why I hate myself! I will never get past my past! It always come back to haunt me!” And it’s in those moments that I have to remind myself that I am free. He is free. And we are covered and cloaked by God’s love. And His love never fails.

Thank you Momma for the book. I read it.

Thank you Dr. Murphy for the hope you passed on to little old me. You never knew when you were writing that your words would make their way to my subconscious mind.  Your words of hope and healing landed in my heart one Christmas and my life was forever changed.

But most importantly, thank you Jesus. Extending forgiveness to myself and others has kept me alive, sane, and hopeful.  Your Words were the best advice I ever received.

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    Elana Anthony

    I am a wife and mother blessed to have six daughters who fill my home with love and laughter. My passion is writing and teaching, but most especially inspiring people to live healthy lives in my faith-filled fitness classes. My dream is to have my own faith and fitness TV show where people from all the world collectively join together on our "temple" building project of enjoying optimal health. I am a certified group fitness instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and earned graduate degrees in Writing from DePaul University, in addition to a degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the California University of Pennsylvania. I have seen and experienced the hand of God work and move in my life, and consider it an honor and blessing to be saved to serve.

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