Forgiveness may not always be enough.
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18: 21-35), Jesus tells Peter that forgiveness may need up to “seventy times seven” times. As many times as I needed to ask forgiveness or give forgiveness in my life, I didn’t understand the need to forgive multiple times until I felt broken beyond the point of repair.
There was that time that night that I went to work with an ice pack on my left hand and told people I fell while playing with the dog. The time when I cried myself to sleep on a worn out futon mattress, shaking because I didn’t know where to run. The time I was locked out on a porch in the cold. The time that I sat scared for my life in a hotel parking lot waiting for a police officer to come and hear my side of the story after he got the other side. And the time later that night when I never thought I’d be able to let a man love me in the way I deserved because I had been broken in a way no one ever should be.
But I shook those times off and I moved on, perhaps too quickly did I find myself forgiving, even hugging the boy that haunted those moments in my life before he moved out and off to another state.
And then the time came when the positive pregnancy test sent me researching quick fixes, adoption, and single motherhood. I forgave again, accepted a child (because there was so much unknown in my life), and even considered co-parenting as a possibility. Then the harsh words, the dog, and a baby swing went flying.
There I was, having to forgive again. To swallow my pride and accept that I made mistakes and just kept going back to them. To know that people were going to stop believing me, that people already didn’t believe me, and to try again to move on. So I tried and just drove myself deeper into another hole of self-disrespect with someone who was never going to love me, someone I couldn’t even admit to that I was pregnant.
Then the baby came. And that baby was so beautiful, so amazing, and I fell in love with her when I least expected it. She and I had to forgive, to understand that there we were, facing the world together as mom and innocent daughter. I had to forgive myself every time I looked at her and got frustrated with my decision to try to move forward, alone.
And then came love, true love, when I least expected it. He and I had to forgive, to sweep my past under a rug and pretend it wasn’t there. That I hadn’t been hurt, that I wasn’t pure. We had to talk about my past and how it could make our future harder. I had to tell my family things that they didn’t want to hear, things that they couldn’t bear to listen to, things that they questioned because of the time that had passed and the way I swept it under the rug of forgiveness.
But we moved forward, got married, and started our own family.
When the second baby came, I finally had to seek the help of a therapist to talk about the things that I so desperately had tried to hide for years. To feel okay. To feel worthy of the love my husband, son, and daughter wanted to give me. To forgive again. And again. And again.
And then I finally found some peace, but knew that there would always be days that triggered the need to forgive again. Days when people tell me to forget the past and move on, that he is no longer in my life and I have it so good now. Days when his name somehow still shows up in my Facebook feed. Days when I question my own ability to raise strong daughters and a son who would never hurt a woman. Days like today when I hear that sisters have to live with the fact that their own brother hurt them in ways that will require the forgiveness cycle I am forever on. I forgive again and again and again.
And while it’s not easy to read, it’s not easy to live. But I believe it is all part of my story, my why, my journey. It’s made me stronger, even on the days that are so hard I reel to the point of needing to run for miles or crawl in bed with the lights off.
My faith helps me get through it, with the verse in Matthew 18. This knowledge of my faith restores my soul in knowing that each dark day will be following by so many bright days. And with this faith, I pray that women like myself do not feel like we have to be ashamed of ourselves or just sweep the past under a rug. Not every day is going to be easy, and that is our reality. The reality of forgiveness.
…and sadly, it may not always be enough.
My heart goes out to the women of the Duggar family. I understand wanting to sweep something under a rug, to not talk about it, to try to move on, to think that faith and forgiveness are enough. And maybe for some people, it is, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you or someone you know is in need of help due to physical or sexual abuse, here are some resources from Southwest PA Says No More:
- For immediate help, call 911
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- Teen Dating Violence Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522
- domesticshelters.org – to locate a domestic violence shelter near you.
This was not a sponsored post, it’s one I felt compelled to write after the recent news about the Duggar family.