by Dorothy Greco
Twenty nine years ago, my fiancé broke up with me. I had just returned from a nine-month overseas photography assignment. This was pre-cell phone and I was totally blindsided. These kind of relational ruptures are aways messy. This one was even more so because we had the same circle of friends and were both leaders in a small, urban church. To complicate matters, he said he never wanted to talk to me again. There would be no opportunity to process what happened and certainly no apology.
I was devastated. It wasn’t simply the loss of a friend. I had felt with some degree of certainty that God had orchestrated our relationship and prompted us to share our lives together. That certainty devolved into deep doubt—not about the existence of God, but about my ability to discern his voice in prayer. I began to wonder if prayer, something that had always been central to my faith, was little more than me talking to myself.
Months after the engagement ended, I felt stuck both relationally and spiritually. I spiraled into shame and regret. Counseling and talking with close friends helped but I couldn’t seem to break through this internal impasse. One day while walking through a local arboretum, I sensed what I thought might be the Holy Spirit encouraging me to fast and pray for a week.
I know some folks actually enjoy fasting. I am not one of those people. I tend to get cranky and consumed with fantasies about food. Never-the-less, my desperation to get unstuck trumped my resistance. Four days into the water fast, I felt another nudge: “Forgive your ex. Completely. And don’t expect anything to come back to you because of this.”
A wave of self-righteousness washed over me. As if in an actual dialogue with God, I said, “Why should I have to forgive him? He never even apologized?”
The response? “Because I asked you to.”
I began the process of forgiving that day. It probably took me a full year to really let go of all my anger.
Forgiveness has a way bringing clarity. During that time, I began to discover how I had contributed to the relationship’s demise. I recognized how my resistance to be honest about my faults and limitations had cast him as the needy one and how my fear and inability to fully trust prompted me to manipulate and control. Forgiving him move me toward greater wholeness. It also freed me from a lifetime of bitterness and resentment.
When my ex called me more than two years after he had ended our relationship, I could say, Yes. Yes I’ll get together to talk with you about what happened. That yes led to more yeses. We married soon after and will celebrate our 27th anniversary on May 11.
Author Leslie Leyland Fields writes in Forgiving Our Mothers and Fathers, “When God freed us from our debts against him, He freed us not to live however we choose, not to pursue our own whims and fancies—but to love more fully.” I will never fully understand this mystery but my own life bears witness to this truth: forgiveness frees us to love.
Dorothy Littell Greco is the author of Making Marriage Beautiful. She writes on the intersection of faith and contemporary culture for Relevant, Christianity Today, and many others. You can find more of her work or follow her on social media by visiting her website: http://www.dorothygreco.com