If you have been joining me each week for my online study, then welcome back! Last week we talked about the importance of identifying and working through unresolved feelings related to our stories of abuse. I talked about working through those emotions, with God’s help, and suggested documenting what you feel and how the abuse has impacted your life in a letter to your abuser(s).
You may have thought I was a little crazy to suggest such a thing – writing a letter to your abuser. But, this week I want to explain that exercise further and the “why” behind it. I am also delighted to have the opportunity to share a little about my friend, Meagan, and how she unraveled years of pent up anger with a stamp and a prayer.
Let me start us off with prayer:
Sweet Jesus, we need your help today. Open our hearts and minds to your truth. Help us to see where we have developed a root of bitterness. Guide us in your ways, and give us the to let go any resentments, so that we can be free to truly live. In your name we pray, Amen.
I’ve talked about the importance of documenting your story in your journal. If journaling is new to you, then it may take you some time to get used to the process. If you have ever kept a diary then you’ve journaled! You don’t have to be a writer, or even write well, to journal. All you need is a notebook, pen, and plenty to say.
Putting your thoughts and emotions to paper can be extremely liberating.
I have kept a journal since my teenage years (of course, it was called a diary back then). I have stacks of journals filled with thoughts, prayers, complaints, dreams, hopes, and arguments with God and others. Journaling has been a powerful tool God has used in my life to help me process and release a lot of emotional pain, grief, and bitterness along with hopes and dreams, ideas and plans, I’ve had along the way.
That is why I recommend it to you in your journey of healing.
As you journal your story you’ll make certain discoveries. One of those discoveries may involve roots of bitterness and resentment you’ve been tending for years. This was true for my friend Meagan. I share part of her story with you now, with her permission.
Meagan joined my recovery group last year, at the recommendation of a mutual friend. When we first met over coffee I could see the tension in her face, and hear the bitterness in her voice as she shared her story of being molested as a teenager by a family friend. This “friend” of the family was still known and spoken of often. She never told anyone what he did, because of a prominant place he held in the community and her fear of not being believed by her family. Now in her late forties, she was still caught under the weight of that well-kept secret, and bitterness had taken root and grown into full blown anger and resentment. While the abuse had long since ended, she was still living with the effects of it.
We talked about forgiveness, and how as believers each one of us have been greatly forgiven. We talked about letting go of resentment, bitterness and anger related to the abuse and how forgiving others is for our benefit more than anyone else. It’s the gateway to our freedom, and the foundation of living at peace with the past.
I encouraged her to write down what she would say to her abuser, if there were no consequences of any kind involved – to let it all out! The understanding was that she could decide if her letter would ever be sent, and when. These were the things I told her must be included in what she wrote:
1- I know what you did to me, and that what you did to me was wrong (tell what happened, as you feel it is necessary).
2- I have been deeply affected by what you did, in this way (document how the abuse has impacted your life)
3- I am working towards forgiving you for what you’ve done, in order to heal and move on with my life.
Meagan wrote her letter. Venting years of painful emotions and resentments was very helpful to her, but she still felt bound. I encouraged her to pray about it, and to consider editing her letter as needed (removing anything that was spoken with malice) in order to send the final draft to her abuser with the understanding that she may never hear anything back from him. This was an exercise for her benefit alone. She did, and with a stamp and a prayer her letter was released…along with the pent up anger she had held on to for years.
Meagan and I met again after her letter was sent. I wish I had a picture of the woman that sat before me that day. She was a vision of loveliness – glowing from the inside out; no longer bound by bitterness. While she had secretly hoped for a response to her letter, the release she felt from being able to finally express her feelings to her abuser after all those years was all that really mattered.
I keep in touch with Meagan often, and she has just bloomed into this strong and confident woman that I so admire. She is walking in the freedom she was looking for when we first met…not because of this study, but because of saying yes to God and choosing forgiveness over bitterness; love over hate. The letter was the tool God used to help her get there.
What about you sweet friend? Are you bitter over the past? Have you struggled to forgive? I hope you’ll consider writing your own letter. Ask God what he would have you to do with it when it’s done. He wants to set you free from your abuser, but it requires action on your part. That action involves forgiveness.
I am praying for you this week. Next week I will be talking more about forgiveness, and the stages involved.
Blessings sweet friend,