Thursday, April 21, 2011

Laying it Down at the Cross

I recently went to a women’s retreat up in Prescott for 3 days. This women’s retreat is different than most retreats. The best way I can describe it is an intense, intimate weekend with God. I had already attended the retreat as a first timer, so I was back to volunteer on the team. Every time I have gone, I somehow manage to come back loving God even more. My job on this retreat was to give a talk about Christian Leadership to these women. Saturday was the day I was speaking. I woke up very early Saturday morning to see that God had given me a gift. At least I thought it was only for me. I went to bed with it being cold and a chance of snow. However, there was no snow. I woke up at 4:30 on Saturday morning and immediately went to the window in my cabin. My eyes looked upon a glorious site, something I hadn’t seen in 14 years, snow! Okay, I have seen snow since then, but it’s always been on a mountain, or I catch the last remnants of it melting away. There was a lot of snow, it had snowed at least 3 inches while I was sleeping and the snow was coming down pretty hard. I hurried up and got ready so I could go outside. Everything was beautiful, white, fresh and very quiet in the early morning hours. I stood in the snow and just let the flakes fall on me, watched them melt on my hands. I just kept thanking God silently in my heart. I felt so happy and I knew it was going to be a good day. Little did I know exactly how the entire day would go.

I talked about what it meant to be a leader in the Christian world. I also talked about how I didn’t feel very equipped to be a leader because I was so flawed. I have always struggled with being transparent, I’m a very private person and tend to shut people out of my life. I have gotten better, but me standing up there talking about my imperfections was nerve wrecking. But, I knew in order to effectively speak to these women, I had to open up. I talked about how I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. I talked about my anger issues. I only touched on a little of my mother and her death and had not intended to add any more to the talk. The night before I was to speak, I knew I had to add a little bit more about my mother. I explained to them that forgiveness was something I really struggled with. Through Christ, I had forgiven my mother for not being there when I was growing up. I broke down in tears as I explained to them how my mother was gone now and that she had lost her life in a domestic violence situation. Barely able to speak through my tears, I also told them that I wasn’t ready to forgive the man who took her life. I knew I needed to, but had chosen to hold on to it for almost 2 years. And there was a part of me that hated him immensely for taking her life and taking her away from me. Although my relationship with her was not perfect and I hadn’t spoke to her in awhile, I still felt he took something away from me.
After my talk, I still felt nauseous. I was unsure why. The upset stomach lasted all day. God was up to something big. That night at dinner we heard a prayer about forgiveness for all the hurts in our life. Me, being the person not wanting to show any more emotion than I had already shown for the day, tried to hold in the tears as I heard the words of the prayer. I was at that moment fighting God about what was going on. I knew what was going on and even at a retreat I choose to fight God. That’s just my nature, I always want to fight. But He always wins, no matter what. I don’t know why I still keep fighting after all this time, but I do.

After dinner we went to the Chapel. I had to run to my room for something and arrived late in the chapel. There in the chapel was a wooden cross laid down on the ground with hammer, nails, and paper. One of the women spoke about leaving your burdens at the cross, giving them up to God. I sat there just thinking about my life and how holding on to hating my mother’s husband was not doing me any good. It seemed like an eternity that I sat there with that blank piece of paper in my hand, just staring at it. I finally worked up the courage to ask for a pen. The lady I asked was in the middle of writing something. I pleaded with her quickly that I needed that pen and I needed it now. Hands shaking, I wrote one word on that paper: BOBBY. My legs felt like they weighed a million pounds as I walked up to that cross. I felt that every eye was on me. Two bangs of the hammer, his name was nailed to that cross.

As I sat back down, I was still feeling like I was going to throw up. Silently pleading with God, I was asking what more did He want? I guess I just expected this immediate response and my burden lifted. But my shoulders still felt so heavy. I was emotionally exhausted and just didn’t know how much I could handle that day. Another person got up and spoke about how those things on the cross are covered by the blood of Christ. I didn’t hear a lot of what they said. I was still silently talking to God, very focused on this conversation I was having. The only part I heard was the person talking about how the healing process is now starting and if people choose to share what they wrote on that paper, they were welcome to, that we were all believers in Christ and we hold each other up. At that moment I knew why I was still nauseous. And of course, I was still fighting God. I know, I’m stubborn. Blame my father’s genes for that. Silently in my head I’m saying, “I’m NOT getting up there and speaking about what I put on that cross.” I just felt God saying, “Trust Me. Trust Me.”

I don’t know how long I sat there, but I was one of the last people to get up. Again, my legs felt so heavy and I felt that all eyes were on me. My words went something like this: Just a few hours ago, I said I wasn’t ready to forgive the man who took my mother’s life. But by holding onto it, it’s not making me a better person and it’s just eating and eating away at me. Through tears, once again, I managed to say his name is Bobby and I put his name on that cross.

After that, the upset stomach went away and my shoulders felt lighter. I am on the road to healing and it feels…just awesome.

Bobby Martin, I forgive you for taking my mother’s life.

“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

~Catherine Ponder


Anonymous said...

What you have shared has spoken to me. I have disappointed my children big time and it has been very hard to forgive myself. Some days I am fine and then memories circulate in my mind or I see mom's and daughter's or mom's and son's together and enjoying their time together. But through the pain there has been growth and freedom in many ways. A wonderful post young lady!! ps What a blessing it must have been to see snow..

Christina said...

Beautiful post Brandy! I appreciate reading your testimony of forgiveness! You are amazing! xoxo

Elder Adams said...

This is so true. Thank you for reminding me of the power that forgiveness holds.