Forgiveness is one of the hardest things God asks us to do. Why is it so important to forgive someone who has hurt us? Doesn’t that let them off the hook? How does it bring freedom to us?
He was waiting in her apartment when she got home. He had broken in through the window. For a long time afterward, she could not enter an empty room, or keep from looking under the bed, or behind the curtains.
Eventually it came to light that he had lived across the street and had watched her since she’d moved in the year before. By the time he was sent to prison, he had shifted from assault to murder. Multiple, consecutive life sentences awaited him.
A counselor, as well as her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Matt, helped Tammy make it through day-by-day, and eventually month-by-month. “I just wanted to be a normal person again,” she said, “…to live my life.” But months passed into years. “My family still doesn’t know, and it has been 35 years since the attack. I can’t put them through the horrors of it…even now.”
Tammy’s anger continued to build over the years rather than ease. “I didn’t lose my faith in God exactly, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. But when a friend invited me to Seacoast a few years ago, I decided to go.”
“I just wanted to be a normal person again.”
Not long afterward, Tammy registered for the Battles to Breakthroughs class (then called Battlefields of the Mind), a Seacoast class designed to help people face their hardest issues. “Friends told me I needed to forgive that man, but that just made me angrier. Forgiving him was impossible. But then I went to a Seacoast weekend service right around the anniversary of the awful shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church, downtown Charleston.”
In commemoration of the nine churchgoers fatally shot at a Bible study, Pastor Josh Surratt spoke on the power of forgiveness and played a video of the victims’ families talking about forgiving the shooter.
How Can You Forgive That?
As the video played, Tammy sat in her seat, hands tightly folded. How could they possibly forgive him? I’ve spent 30-some years unable to forgive. But closing her eyes, she began to pray. And somewhere deep inside, a weight began to shift in her chest. “It was so heavy I could almost see it,” she said. “A weight lifted that I’d carried for years. It rose, changing into something that felt like fluttering butterflies.”
On shaky legs, Tammy stood and went to the cross nearest her in the Worship center, and did something she never thought she could do. Tears running down her face, she pinned I forgive you to the cross.
“A weight lifted that I’d carried for years.”
“I’ve never felt so close to God, never had such an experience of him…of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “Being angry and staying angry is very hard on your heart and soul. I held onto my anger for 35 years. But I tell my story because I want to help others break free from the hatred weighing down their hearts. Yes, that man needs to stay in prison—but I don’t. I finally gave it all over to God, and he freed me.”
What about you? Maybe you’ve been on a hard journey with no end in sight, but what small step can you take right now? It could make all the difference.
If you’d like to speak to a pastor or learn more about the support classes we offer, visit seacoast.org/care