“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” – C. S. Lewis
Pardon is a ticket or an official document given to a convict to release them from further punishment. Pardon is offered to those who accept responsibility for their crimes and have reformed characters. Convicts who receive pardon are restored to society and are allowed to enjoy the rights of citizenship in their country.
Pardon doesn’t excuse the crime; it does not erase the record of conviction. Pardon is granted after the convict has served some time in their sentence and is only offered by a person in authority who has the power to do so. It’s a chance a convict receives to live differently.
God offered us this when Christ came to live, suffer, die, and resurrect so that you and I can be let off the hook. That was a messy experience, but Christ still chose to walk that road out of His love for you and me. I’ve just had chills typing that statement. This is one of the layers that gets me emotional. My eyes just got wet. Granting pardon to others is one of the highest expressions of love to God. It’s the highest level of surrender I’ve ever experienced.
I love how sensitive God is that He only reveals to us what our hearts can bear. He has compassion for us because He walked this road before, but He did not sin. He knows how difficult it is to let go of the grudges and the desire for revenge. He is our companion on this road, dear reader. He feels your pain, and He sees that you’re hurting. He doesn’t like it that you’re paying for the consequences of another person’s selfishness. He’s willing to heal you and to restore that which the enemy stole from you.
When I first wrote a letter to a man who assaulted me sexually, I wept, shivered and resisted writing it. It was difficult. My heart felt as though it was being ripped out. I was enraged, but I knew that I needed to cross that line for liberation. This happened after a study I had on God’s love for me and how He freely pardons me for my sins.
The thought of how much God loves me overwhelmed my heart, and I just wanted to free people from the prison I had in my heart. I wanted to take deep breaths and not shallow sighs. I wanted to laugh from the deepest spaces of my heart. I wanted to live a free life of not changing my route just because I might meet with an offender. I just wanted to live an authentic life.
So, I asked God to forgive the offenders in my heart. And He gave me peace. He reminded me that the pardon He offered me is also available for the offender, but they have a choice to accept it themselves or not. This gave me permission to surrender the pain, thoughts, and emotions to God in exchange for His peace.
Granting pardon is a difficult exercise but pays a big price in the forgiveness journey. This can be done through writing several undelivered letters to the offender or empty chair exercise. If the offender is late, then the letter or the conversation can be addressed to God. Let Him know how you feel. He honors our pain.
Find a counsellor or a therapist to walk you through these exercises. Avoid the excitement of pushing yourself to face the offender when the wound is still fresh. Even years later, choose to face your offender with somebody else. You may have healed to a certain degree, but we know nothing about the offender’s state of heart.
Sometimes pardon means ending a dysfunctional relationship. Sometimes it means a change of location for safety and growth. It’s challenging to forgive an offender whom you still have connections with. Separation becomes necessary in this case. Separation helps us to process the pain. Sometimes we may not have the privilege of a physically separation, but we can create emotional distance for healing to take place. Pardon does not require reconciliation. It’s just like how God has offered pardon to all, but He’s not reconciled with everyone. He only reconciles with those who accept His pardon and decide to change from their old selves.
I believe that the separation that Joseph had from his brothers (Genesis 37-50) gave him a chance to heal and be able to offer pardon to them. God also gave us pardon after a long time of separation (Isaiah 59:2). He says, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back” Isaiah 54:7 (NIV).
You may not be at this stage in your healing, and God gets that. He heals us according to His perfect schedule. I invite you to ask God to walk with you in this journey. Choose not to rush. Choose not to give cheap forgiveness by saying, “It’s okay.” Let Him guide you. He knows what’s best for you and when you’re ready for it. Study and see what forgiveness look like from His word. God wants to liberate you. He wants to heal you. Will you trust Him with your forgiveness journey?
Faith is a Children’s Content Creator at Learn & Grow enterprises, Storyteller and Mental Health Advocate. She tells her story to offer hope, help and healing to survivors of sexual trauma.