The Forgiveness Cross (Part Two)

Most of the turning points in my life started with the power of forgiveness. In this episode, I share part two of the Forgiveness Cross illustration. Walk with me as I share how I forgave my grandma’s murderer and also forgave myself and finally accepted God’s forgiveness for my sexual sin.

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SHELLEY. Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and in this episode we’re going to finish part two of the forgiveness cross illustration. So if you missed part one I shared that in episode four and so here in episode five I’m going to finish this illustration and this is really really powerful stuff.

I’m going to share today about my grandma’s murder and how I didn’t even realize that I needed to forgive her murderer, it happened when I was 8-year-old but I’ll share about how when I was an adult God let me through a path of forgiveness. I will also talk about the importance of forgiving myself and especially the sexual sin, the pornography addiction that I struggled with for 2 years. And so I know this content is powerful, it has been so powerful in my own life and I pray that God uses it in your life as well. Please know that I am praying for each one of you that is listening to this podcast and, and I hope that you come away from this episode hearing from God, so enjoy.

SHELLEY. One of the things that really was a turning point for me and has been a huge turning point in so much of the healing of my broken pieces that God is done in my life has centered around the topic of forgiveness and that’s why I knew I had to start this first couple weeks in this topic of forgiveness. And really just share with you because once you get this, once God does this in your life, once you walked through this, there are some amazing amazing things that can happen, miracles at the hand of God, you know nothing that we can do in our own strength.

But one of the things that I’ve found was that forgiveness’s of others is often the first step we take when healing from hurts in our lives. In fact, there was a, a speaker that came to our church and he shared a talk. To be honest I don’t even remember what the talk title was, I don’t remember anything else he shared except for this one illustration. This one illustration has stuck with me forever. Has that ever happened to you?

Well the illustration he shared was unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness is like carrying a dead corpse around on your back piggy back, kind of like the picture you see on the screen. It’s like carrying this dead corpse around on your back all the time 24/7 and what would start happening to your healthy skin if you truly did this. Like if you truly did carry a dead corpse around on your back for a while, you know it was with you all the time, what would start happening to your healthy skin.

Well I was a physical therapist, I’ve taken gross anatomy I worked with cadavers and all of that. And basically what happens is that corpse would begin eating away at your healthy skin, it would literally begin eating you away and that’s the picture of what happens when we carry the weight of unforgiveness or bitterness, or resentment, it’s like this weight and we’re carrying it on our backs and it begins to eat us away emotionally and spiritually.

Have you ever carried a backpack through an airport or on a hike and your like “oh, the backpack feels pretty good, you know it’s not heavy.” And then you have, you realized you have to walk a really far distance through the airport or your hike is longer than you remembered it being and all of the sudden that backpack is really heavy, it gets heavier every step you take. It’s kind of what happens with unforgiveness as well. The longer we hold it, the longer we carry it the heavier it gets the more it begins to eat us away, and the more it begins to change us.

So last week I begin to talk to you about the forgiveness cross, we’re going to finish this illustration this week. And so the next part of the forgiveness cross I’m going to share with you is about forgiving others, it’s that horizontal part of the forgiveness cross. So what is the bible say about forgiving others. I thought it was really interesting the amplified version of Mark 11:25 this is what it says, it says that “if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and” do what, “let it drop.” You know that weight that you’ve been carrying, that weight is getting heavier, and heavier, and heavier.

The word of God says, it says “let it drop, leave it, let it go, in order that your father who is in heaven may also forgive you, your own feelings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive neither will your father in heaven forgive your feelings and shortcomings.” And so there was a weight that I carried for 20 years, you see I was baptized and accepted Christ into my life when I was 7 years old but the very next year when I was 8 years old one of the most traumatic things happened in my life, we got a call that my grandma died but it wasn’t just that she died, she was murdered, and it wasn’t just that she was murdered, she was killed by somebody we loved, somebody we trusted, somebody my dad introduced her to in church, someone who called himself a Christian, her second husband, Don.

He turned himself in, I have all the police record transcripts of it, he said that he did it, he strangled her to death and yet they ruled him as not guilty because of mental disorders. You see Don had the disorder manic-depressive or bipolar, he decided to stop taking his medicine he thought he was good, he was doing better with his medicine, he decided to stop taking it and if you know what bipolar’s like, it’s like you have ups and you have downs, and so on the up he would spend all their money. My grandma had got a settlement, my grandpa died as a result of a wrongful death, that’s a whole other story but he spent all the money she’s gotten from the settlement, they bought this fancy car, I remember it was like in the 80’s and it talked, the car talked to you so he buys all these things, spent all his money and then he got to the depressive part of the bipolar and he didn’t see a way out, he’d spent all the money, he didn’t know what’s going to happen how they were going to get out of that. The only way he saw out was to kill my grandmother and himself.

Well, he succeeded in killing my grandma but he never killed himself in fact he ended up turning himself in. He spent a few years in a mental hospital but then he got out.  And I was just like God! It’s not fair, my grandma I was so close to her. I kind of say that I might have been her favorite grandchild, I don’t know we lived with her for a while, like I was tight, I was close and at 8-years-old I couldn’t understand, it was, it was too much, it was part of my broken pieces, my heart was shattered. You know I just stuffed it down and I went on with my life. Have you ever done that where you just push something down, maybe, I mean, I was so young, I didn’t even know how to deal with it, I didn’t even think my parents knew at that time. My mom is now a Christian counselor but I don’t think she knew at that time even like that counseling might help me or anything but she says I would hold her hand in church and I would squeeze it so tight that it would literally feel like, my fierceness was going to break the skin, she just said there was so much emotion inside of me. I was in the gifted class at school need to pull me out because I wasn’t doing well on school, it was a difficult time for me.

And it wasn’t until my late 20’s about 20 years later that stuff began to surface again, you know I was dealing with a pornography addiction and there was other stuff going on in my life and I just felt like the Lord says “Shelley, you’re using these other things to cope with the pain and with the stuff that you’ve never dealt with. It’s time, it’s time to deal with those wounds from the past, it’s time to deal that stuff from the past or you are just going to continue on this path of addiction and destruction.”

I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to deal with it, I didn’t want to face the pain in the past, it’s like ripping open a scald off of a wound and have it start bleeding again. I thought if I grieved my grandmother’s death coz’ to be honest I never remember crying one time when I was a little over my grandma’s death, I don’t remember. and I thought if I grieve her death I’ll start crying and I’ll never stop but you know what happened, I was able to grieved they were healing tears and I did stop, I did stop but God brought me on a process of being able to finally recognized I had carried unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness towards Don that I had never ever address and it was getting really really heavy. And I was doing things and I take full responsibility for my addictions but I was doing things to cope, to cover up so I wouldn’t have to deal with those emotions, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pains, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stuff. And sometimes we don’t even know it was there, I didn’t know it was there until God in His perfect timing brought it to the surface and was like okay it’s time.

I went to Christian counseling and when I was working with my counselor one of the things she recommended was that I write some letters to Don as part of my healing process, and I have my actual journal this was just like a really cheap little spiral journal and I did a lot of processing in this journal. Don was already dead at that time that I was going through this and so I wrote some letters. My very first letters were very ugly, angry, and I don’t think I’ll ever show them to anyone else. But it was a process, I actually share the entire story in my book called forgiveness formula so if you’re interested in that, that is available in that book.

It was a process and my very final letter to Don went like this. “Don, I have gained a greater perspective of your life you yourself have experienced a lot of grief in your life” coz’ you see I, as an adult I decided to go back and get every public record I could about my grandma and Don, about the trial, about any transcripts, anything I could get a hold of. And so all of his psychological testing was public record because of the trial and so I got access to all these stuff and I got to know stuff about him I had no clue.

I said, “you lost your mom to a stroke at age 29, your dad died cancer at age 40 and your wife, marriage and family at age 59. You lost your job after 30 years when it went out of business, you can probably understand some of the grieve I’ve carried with me for the last 20 years,” sometimes I can read this without crying not today (LOL). “I don’t think I’ll ever completely understand all the lies but I realized that Jesus is asking me to forgive you and to release your crime to Him for judgement and punishment. Even though the courts ruled that you were not guilty due to mental illness, I believe you face your punishment the day you face Jesus when you died. Either you received the punishment you truly deserved or if you did sincerely repent on earth then Jesus took on that punishment for your crime. Your sin against Him, just like he will take the punishment for all my sins. Don, I forgive you, I will never ever ever agree that what you did was right but I leave that in Jesus’s hand today. Please accept my forgiveness today.” I actually wrote out in my journal a picture of the hands of Jesus, you can see it’s just a really simple simple drawing but it really helped me to process what was happening. And so what I put in Jesus’s hands that day was Don’s crime and his punishment because in my earthly mind he never received the punishment he truly deserved for murdering my grandma. I put in His hands my grandma’s death because she was taken from me so early and I just wonder you know what, what would have happened had she remained here on earth.

I, I put into His hands my anger, resentment, hurt, and pain, and my forgiveness of Don. And it was a process I’m not going to lie to you I mean it took time to truly heal and to truly forgive from my heart. Matthew 18:35 Jesus is sharing a parable and He says we are to forgive from our heart and it makes me think of my nieces when they were little, and my nieces you know they would be fighting or something and they, my sister would say okay “tell your sister your sorry” and they would you know stomp around and they be like (*sigh) “sooory”. Did they mean it, were they truly forgiving from their heart? No I don’t think so (LOL) but why were they saying those words then if they weren’t truly meaning them. They were saying them because their mom told them they had to.

And I wonder if sometimes as Christians we know the bible says we’re to forgive others in order for God to forgive us, and so it’s like a little checklist and we stomp around and we’re like (*sigh) alright I forgive them check off my lists, I did it because God told me I had to, His words says I have to but I wonder if we truly take the time if we truly take the effort, if we truly invest in forgiving from our hearts because it was not easy and it took time, it took tears, it took counseling, it took a process. But when I went through that process, and the holy spirit empowered me to forgive, it was a turning point moment coz’ I didn’t feel like forgiving at first and if you wait until you feel like forgiving, when do you think you will forgive the other person? probably never because to be honest when we’ve been deeply deeply hurt, I don’t know if we ever really feel like forgiving.

I want to make this point because in chapter two I’m going to share a little bit about sexual abuse that happened to me and when I share that and I know the statistics, I know the statistics are that a lot of you have been abused in some way or another, sexually. When I talk to teen girls and women and they’ve been abused they’re like “I can’t forgive” because then that means what he did to me was okay, no, no, no, that is not what it means. Forgiving someone who has done something really really wrong to you does not mean that what they did was okay. And it does not mean that you agree with their actions, it actually frees you, it actually leaves that way off of you, it’s actually for you to get healing that you need. Unforgiveness or bitterness, resentment it’s like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. Who is the only person that it truly affects, us. And I would tell you it was not out of self help, it was not out of self effort, it was not out of anything that I did on my own. This forgiveness was only possible through the holy spirit. So if you have been hurt deeply, it just really feels like too much for you to forgive, it is too much for you, but it is not too much for Jesus. He gives us His holy spirit to help us through the process.

And I begin to see things form Don’s perspective you know the saying hurt people hurt people, he was a broken hurting person himself and yet that doesn’t excuse what he did, it doesn’t, it doesn’t make it right but I begin to understand a little bit more of his perspective. And finally Jesus showed us His example on how to forgive when He said in Luke 23:34 On the cross, when He was on the cross, He was innocent, He was being murdered Just like my grandma, innocent. What did He say, on the cross when He was dying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He is our ultimate example of walking in His steps and being able to forgive others.

The final part of the forgiveness cross is what I’m going to share soon but last week we talked about asking God’s forgiveness the vertical part and I just wanted to mention that there is a difference between feeling sorry for our sins and truly repenting. And this week’s chapter I talked about my own struggle with the pornography addiction and there would be many times I would feel sorry, I would want to you know, I would just like Lord, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry but I didn’t truly repent. Repentance means to stop doing what I’m currently doing and to start doing something different. And so it’s almost like I was walking down this way and I was just really you know blinded by my own sin.

The picture I get is, it comes from the scripture of the prodigal son where it says he was eating the food of the pigs, the pugs of the pigs and he came to his senses and realized I could eat better at my father’s home, have you ever noticed that in the scripture it says “he came to his senses” and the picture I get of when I truly begin to repent was, it was almost like, have you seen at football game when they win the game, what are they do to the coach? what are do they do to him? They pour this iced water iced Gatorade over them and it was almost like there was a moment in time that I came to my senses, it was almost like the holy spirit poured this iced water over me and I was like “Woah! Hoah, Oh, what am I doing? How did I get here, how do I get out of here,” it’s taking two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, four steps back anyone who has dealt with addiction you know it’s not pretty, it’s not easy, it’s not clean yet when we truly repent and we start doing things differently and so instead of going down this path we are turning around so I changed. I changed the password on our computer so that I couldn’t get on in unless my husband was home at that time, I put filters on our computers, I started changing even the way that I dressed because I had some issues with modesty and I almost had an affair, I had an emotional affair but the pornography was leaking into other things in my life and so I start changing things in my life as God led me, it wasn’t legalistic, it wasn’t because oh I have to do this, it was because I wanted to be free. I won’t watch certain movies because I want to be free. I won’t listen to certain music because I want to be free.

Repentance is about making some of those hard turning around decisions so that we can be free. I’m not saying is going to be easy because a lot of times it’s not but as you begin to repent and truly change. People will notice, and people began to notice in my life, my family and close friends begin to see a joy come back in my eyes, you know what I mean. Like when that, that joy just leaves and it just like this numbness. People began to see a difference.

It says “I will tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repent than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent. “If you are at that place and you’re dealing with an addiction, you’re dealing with a sin, you’re dealing with something and you need to repent just know there will be a party in heaven for you, God rejoices over it, He loves it so much so that in His word He talks about it at over one sinner that needs to repent there’s more rejoicing than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.

So the final part of the forgiveness cross is forgiving ourselves, and there’s this circle in the center. Why do we need to forgive ourselves? Well sometimes although we’ve truly repented and God’s forgiven us, we still have regret for our mistakes and sins of the past. I will tell you that I had totally repented of my sin of pornography, I was no longer actively using it, I was no longer actively acting out in other ways, I had really changed with the power of the holy spirit. It was this process and yes I still stumble occasionally but I was free, I was really free, but I wasn’t free up here, I was still in chains. I was still chained in the shame and the regrets of my past mistakes in my mind.

It was about that time that I really felt like God was leading me in to ministry and I was like “NO! who am I, how could I ever be used, these broken crayons. How?” And you might be thinking that too how. I’ve made these mistakes, these things have been done to me, this is, how can God ever use me. And I would beat myself up over and over my mind “stupid, stupid, stupid, how could you do that, how could you, how could you make that mistake, you knew better, you’re a Christian married woman, how could you do this. Stupid, stupid!” I’d call myself stupid so many times and yet the Lord made it very clear, “Shelley, you’ve repented, you’ve changed, you’ve asked forgiveness but you have not forgiven yourself. You have not fully accepted my forgiveness. You are holding on to that shame, that regret.” And it might surface’s self-hate, self-condemnation or unworthiness, however the bible says “we’re love to our neighbor as we love who? As we loved ourselves.”

Now this is isn’t we get into like pride and self-esteem and oh all of that but if we can’t even love ourselves, how are we going to truly love other people, if we can’t forgive ourselves, how are we going to forgive others. One thing I’d like to challenged you with is if you had a simple notebook and you wrote down everything that you say to yourself everyday. If you wrote that down in a notebook for 24-hours, every thought, every thing that you said to yourself. And then you started saying those same things to your friends would you have any friends? It’s an interesting thing to think because we do not treat ourselves very well, typically we are our worst critics, we condemn ourselves, we beat ourselves up and it is time to let it go. Like that verse early, it’s time to let it drop. It’s time to be kind to ourselves and fully accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward in what He has called us to do, the masterpiece, He wants to create from our broken crayons, our broken pieces but we can’t often move forward until we get through these steps of the forgiveness cross.

So it’s the forgiveness cross was something I learned in counseling and the horizontal part is forgiving others, the vertical part is asking God for forgiveness and then the circle is forgiving yourself, or you can think of it as fully accepting God’s forgiveness. This is an illustration that truly transformed my life and I pray that it can help transformed your life, that’s it’s an illustration you can use with others when you’re talking with them, when they’re struggling, when they’re going through hard times. That this is something that’s burned on through your mind that you will never forget. My final question for you today is what do you need to put in Jesus’s hands, it’s probably something really different than what I put in to Jesus’s hand that day, years ago. What do you need to put on Jesus’s hand today, what do you need to trust Him with. Is there someone that you need to forgive, that someone maybe yourself. Is there something that you need to really work through in a deeper way to truly forgive from your heart.

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