"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs."
-Helen Burns, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
A. I'm re-reading Jane Eyre, and loving it even more than the first time. I'm reading the same copy that I read the first time, and am discovering the many ways I've changed in those seven years, and how my whole view of the world has changed. Especially in Volume I. Where I once underlined the parts regarding Jane's outbursts and passions, and how she wept (i.e. "...left to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards." - Vol.I, ch.8), now I find myself identifying more with Helen, striving to be even more like her. I've nearly memorized the Sermon on the Mount, and it grows ever more familiar; it's settled into my bones. I've learned to forgive.
B. How long did it take me to learn that lesson! Three and a half years I've been working on one situation in particular. I lost who I thought was my best friend in the most hurtful, shocking way I could imagine: she abandoned me and literally kicked me out of the house we were living in together, at the moment I needed her friendship and support the most.
I was hurt, I was bereft, I was angry and bitter.
This fall I went through the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore, and it did indeed help me break free. My main goal in the study was to get rid of that deep anger and bitterness, to finally forgive the girl who caused me so much grief, and to finally move on. It was hard, hard work. Several months of feeling those feelings again, opening old woulds, and releasing it to God. I intentionally went through the steps of grieving to mourn the loss of such an important friendship. And He has turned my mourning into gladness.
Through all that I was able to finally forgive her. I realized that can also be a daily need. But the nightmares stopped. The anger dissipated. My strong desire for closure was met not through anything from her (I so longed for an apology), but from the knowledge that I was doing my part, and peace in God's presence. I let go, and was free of that prison, and it felt wonderful.
About a month after the study ended, I received a Facebook friend request from her. And I was fine- where once I would have had a panic attack, would have been a wreck. I clicked the "decline" button, without fear, anger, or anything but the quiet, inner strength and pride that I don't need to cling to the past or feel guilty about not falling into my old patterns. Test number one? Passed with ease.
Then that afternoon I received a message from her, completely unexpected. She apologized for everything, and acknowledged how badly it all ended.
I am so, so proud of myself for being able to say, my first thought was of forgiveness. And being stunned that that was what I was thinking. I think my jaw dropped, and I stared at the messaged for a while, not quite knowing what to do. I did not freak out, or panic, or anything like that. God's timing is beautiful and perfect, and I am so grateful for this illustration of his love. Yet again, when I let go of this thing I wanted so badly, and finally put all my trust in him, he so generously gave me the deep desire of my heart. It is a hard lesson to learn, but so rich in its return.
I called my mom, took a shower, and prayed. Mom gave me her usual expert, solid advice, and helped me process the whole situation. I waited through the weekend to reply, taking care not to be hasty in my response. I wanted to make sure it conveyed forgiveness, no anger or bitterness, and yet didn't invite further friendship. I wanted to be amiable, but not setting myself up for the same hurt yet again. It was short and to the point.
I'm so relieved and blessed that it's come full circle. I feel as though I've passed a huge test. I thought I'd let it all go, and was at peace, no anger. So God said, "Okay, Lianne. Let's see how you do with this." And my first, and pervasive thought was (and is), "I forgive her."
It's an amazing gift God has given me. I am truly free, like I had intentionally asked him to help me.