This is my family. Not everyone is pictured here, but this is the majority of them. Each and every one of these people has impacted how I became who I am today. I am my own person, yes, but I am made up of everyone I come from. A concoction of beauty and curiosity, creativity and passion. I am unique and one of a kind. From my mother I received my sass and determination; she taught me how to balance concepts like no person is too perfect or too awful, everyone is worthy of my time and attention and I am worthy of self-respect. My father gave me my wit and my humor, he taught me how to tell stories, how to make people laugh, how to make a room warm again. My grandmother gave me her grace and her empathy. We joke that I must have skipped a generation or something, because her heart and mine grow from the same root. My grandfather taught me how to forgive, time and time again, over and over, as Christ does for me. He taught me that forgiveness takes courage, and grudges are weakness. My aunts taught me how to be both tender and strong, my brother reminds me that no matter what is thrown my way I have a forever friend in him because we grew up facing the same struggles; he reminds me of my strength. This list goes on and on, and all of these people have taught me and shaped me into who I am today.
As grateful as I am for each of my family members, there are memories I have with each where times have been stressful, strained, even times where I thought “wow, I guess I have to get used to life without them” because of so much hurt exchanged. There have been times where I have felt completely isolated from my entire family, far and wide, where I didn’t want to know or be a part of their lives and I surely didn’t want them knowing anything about mine. Times where I said “I don’t need any of them. I’m good” despite the determination from my mother, the laughter from my father, the empathy and kindness from my grandma, the courage from my grandpa. I stayed isolated as long as I could, eventually evolving into halfhearted communication and a sincere lack of interest, until the process repeated itself. I grew cold and unfamiliar.
It was during one of these isolation periods that I finally had a conversation with God. It took several years (God knows I’m a stubborn girl) before I actually opened the door to His knock, something I had grown used to ignoring. He asked me simply, “Why are you doing this? Aren’t you tired of running away?” I told Him I’m better off alone. No hurt, no drama, no pain. I can find new people to share my heart with, new people to love and care for that won’t hurt me so much. I was convinced that the pain hurt so badly because it was coming from the people that I come from, the trunk my branches grew from, the garden in which I grew. And the people you come from aren’t supposed to hurt you. Or at least, that’s what I thought. I was convinced I needed to find new soil to place my roots in, and that doing so would alleviate any future wounds incapable of scarring over. God responded to my attempt at being stern with grace, as He always does “Mariah don’t you know that you are never alone? I am always with you. Through the hurt that was said with power and intention, when that wound pierced your heart and hasn’t stopped since, and when you retaliated. Every time, I was there. I was there when the unthinkable happened, again and again, when you stormed off, when you thought you were protecting yourself by isolating again. I was there. I’m here.”
As I continued talking with God and really started feeling how alone I had managed to become, He brought me to realize this: when we isolate ourselves and hold onto hurt we also isolate ourselves from Him. There is no forgiveness without God. Isolation and resentment brews poison, it is not a pick and choose but a blanket statement: when you isolate yourself from those who have hurt you and refuse reconciliation, you end up left with nothing and no one but your wounds and your guilt. That poison will brew a nasty stew in your heart and friends, how the devil loves to stir that stew. Adding new ingredients and making it as hearty as possible, so that eventually it’s not about taking care of you it’s about your anger, your hurt, how you can never look back or speak to those who have hurt you again, it’s not about self-care it’s about self-vengeance.
Until you surrender your pains and your hurts you will continue to walk around with open wounds. Your wounds cannot heal until you decide to let them go. And I’m not talking about letting it go like a balloon in the sky, floating and unintentional. I’m talking about letting it go to God. Lay it out to Him, cry to Him, let your feelings pour over and forgive. Forgive even if that person hasn’t asked for it. Forgive even if you don’t think they deserve it. Forgive for yourself, for your own sanity, so that new growth can begin. Forgive yourself for the hurts that you caused that you don’t want to face, the memories you try to forget because it just hurts too much, forgive even though you aren’t the same person and don’t want to relive those feelings. Forgive yourself. And rejoice and give thanks to our patient Father who was waiting for this moment, by your side, all along.
Friends I do not write this under the impression it is always easy or simple to forgive. I have gone years holding hurts to the point where I don’t even remember how the hurt came to exist and I’ve just come to know it by the wound it left. I know burying is easier. I know isolating is easier. I know holding on to our pains and hurts is easier because it was you who picked up the broken pieces in the first place. Forgiveness means letting go and sometimes we aren’t ready. And how can we be? Does anyone ever plan on being broken? As strong and determined and passionate as you are, you are human. And we are breakable. But here is the good news, the ever-ringing good news: God is stronger. Stronger than all of those hurts, stronger than your desire to hold them close as the broken pieces of yourself that they are, stronger than the devil and his stew of hatred. God is there with you sweet friend and He has your heart in His hands and He is begging you to let. go. Even if it means unraveling. Trust that God will be there to put you back together. Stop carrying around broken pieces when you have a Creator who just wants to make you whole again. Let those broken pieces go. Lay them down, and let them go.
Here are four verses on forgiveness that have brought me comfort and courage in times of brokenness: