Years ago, I wrote a book about my life. I thought, I love to write, I have an unbelievable story, a book sounds like a good idea. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I labored over the book for years. I wept over pages, dove into memories I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and my love for writing grew in the process.
Books take multiple edits and rewrites, and something unexpected and beautiful happened during the revision process. I rewrote the book again and again. Each edit was less angry than the first draft, every rewrite was a chance for a fresh perspective. I began to edit out certain words I’d written about people from my past, because I genuinely didn’t feel that way towards them any longer. It got to the point where I was no longer writing from a place of anger, hurt, or unforgiveness – I was writing from a place of compassion.
I made sample copies of the book and gave them to a few close friends who’d partnered with me on that journey. One of those dear friends came over the other day and handed me the sample book. She said, “I’m embarrassed I’ve had this so long, I can’t believe I forgot to return it to you.”
I hadn’t thought about that book in a long time. I told her I was tempted to throw it in the fire (I heard every writer feels that way about their first book which makes me feel better), but a part of why I felt that way, I explained to my friend, was that it served it’s purpose. I felt everything I needed to feel. I processed everything I needed to process. I accepted every memory, released every pain, forgave every hurt. I am free.
I have no desire to share that book with anyone, it was therapy between me and God.
I went to Georgia this past week for a conference. I sat next to a woman who became a fast friend. Kelen is a Christian counselor who also happens to be an expert in reading body language. I felt like she could see through my soul by examining the way my legs were crossed. I was a little intimidated but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick her brilliant brain. Kelen has excelled in her profession for a long time, she said in her experience, unforgiveness is people’s problem 98% of the time.
Ninety Eight Percent.
I can’t stop thinking about that.
I don’t recall the exact words Kelen shared with me, but the imagery I walked away with was an onion. I imagined someone sitting down for counseling with Kelen, thinking they are there for an eating disorder or a family quarrel. I pictured Kelen peeling back the layers of an onion. A layer of defensiveness, a layer of insecurity, a layer of pride, a layer of anger…the layers kept getting tossed aside until she hit the core: unforgiveness.
I sat on the plane on the long flight back to California and I closed my eyes. Most people would assume I was sleeping, but I was doing important work. I was asking God if there was anything or anyone else I needed to forgive and release. I allowed God to scan my heart like a laser. Is there any remaining anger? Is there any lingering bitterness? Uproot it Lord. I don’t want any heart blockages hindering me.
A couple instances popped in my mind, things I hadn’t written about. So I did what writing that book taught me to do (in my head instead of on paper). I felt what I needed to feel. I prayed until anger took a backseat to compassion. I forgave and I released it to God. I threw away the first draft.
I walked off that plane without baggage, light and free, because the airline graciously gate checked mine for me, and because God took some junk from my heart.
Brene Brown writes; “If you own this story you get to write the ending. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Without me even knowing it, God took my love for stories and writing and showed me how to own my own. God is sneaky like that.
I laid in bed with my husband the night I got back from Georgia. I was exhausted from traveling, he was exhausted from taking care of the kids for five days, but we couldn’t resist staying up late to talk. I told him about my new friend Kelen, my baggage-free flight and how free and light I felt. We talked about the ninety eight percent a lot. “Ninety eight percent!” I kept saying, as if the number would change if I said it with more emphasis.
“Isn’t it amazing,” my husband added, “that the very thing us humans struggle to extend to one another is the very thing Jesus came down to earth to extend to us freely?”
And now I have something else I can’t stop thinking about.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7