If a prison could literally be built inside of my heart, then my parents would have been locked in it.
For nearly two decades, I had a hard heart towards my father for not being as active in my life as I would have liked for him to be. Growing up, I blocked him so far out of my mind to the point where, I often overlooked his absence. That was my way of protecting myself – or so I thought.
Then there was my mother, who was physically there for me, but at times could not be morally or emotionally supportive due to her life circumstances. From the time that I was an adolescent when major life events began to take place, into adulthood, I gradually developed resentment in my heart towards her for not always being the cheerleader that I needed and desired.
But, what I didn't realize is that I was making my way through life with wounds deeply rooted in the pain of rejection. I felt rejected by my parents. Yes, I continually moved forward, but I took the pain and the memory of every offense with me. It’s almost as if I thought that by blocking my father out of my life and that by moving forward after I developed offense towards my mother, that I was protecting myself from being hurt again, and further allowing myself to heal. But instead, the wounds never healed and were made worse due to the bitterness and unforgiveness that I was carrying in my heart.
I guess you can compare it to putting a Band-Aid on a deep cut or scrape. When you're working or playing and you get injured in the process, you stop and take time to cover up the wound with a Band-Aid. You fix the injury enough so that you can continue working or playing, as you were doing before you got hurt. If you fix it well enough, you may even forget that you were injured in the first place. That's exactly what I did with my parents. Forgetting my father and ignoring my mother, was the Band-Aid that allowed me to remain functional enough to continue on with my life. I covered the wounds of my heart so well, that I went for years without even knowing I was in pain. Overall, I lived a blessed life, so it was easy to overlook the pain.
But God, being ever so gracious, saw the burden that I was carrying and desired to heal me. He knew that I would not be able to walk into my divine purpose, while carrying old wounds with me. I am a giant in the kingdom of God and He knew that I would have never reached my fullest potential if I remained injured. He has an abundant life waiting for us and blessings that He desires to release, but He knew that I would not be ready for all that He had in store for me, if I was not able to let go of the past. If He gave me all that He had for me, while I was still in pain, I would have destroyed it, because neither, my heart or mind would have been in the right place to keep it. Moreover, He knew that I would have died in my sin of unforgiveness – and that price is just way too high.
So He exposed my wounds to me. He knew that just like a physical cut or scrape, those wounds of the heart wouldn’t completely heal until the Band-Aid was ripped off and the wounds were made visible.
My life came to a point where it sort of felt like it was at a standstill. My spiritual life felt stuck, as well as my life in the natural. Every time I went to pray, it just felt like my prayers weren’t even reaching heaven.
So, I decided to go through a spiritual coaching and deliverance process. During a forgiveness exercise, my soul wounds were exposed. All I remember is uncontrollably screaming and crying at the top of my lungs, saying, “YOU HURT ME MOMMY, YOU HURT ME DADDY!” If my neighbors had heard those screams, they would have thought someone was trying to murder me. They were so loud that they sort of scared me. While it was happening, I was thinking, “Where in the world is this coming from?” Those screams were coming from the very depths of my soul. That is how deep my pain was.
The next day after walking through that exercise, I kept hearing those screams replaying in my head. I asked the Holy Spirit why I screamed the way I did. He whispered to me, “You haven’t forgiven your parents.” I was surprised to hear this because I thought I had forgiven my father in my quiet time with God. As far as my mother, I spoke to her nearly every day. So I had no idea I still had anything against her. I surely didn’t know I had any pain from her. That is the thing about unforgiveness. Just like carbon monoxide, it can sneak up on you, and if you’re not careful, it can silently kill you. You can have it and not even realize it is there.
God gave me a vision of a prison inside of my heart, and my parents were being held captive. He said to me, “I want you to see your parents like I see them, that my daughter is the key.” He gave me this vision of my mother, and she looked like a radiant beam of light. He said to me, “She is flawless in my eyes.” WOW! My mother is a child of God. He loves her. He thinks she is amazing and beautiful. I could only think to myself how dare me hold a child of the most high God, when He has hasn’t? How dare me see her as anything less than what He sees when He looks at her? I immediately began to weep. I reached out to my mother and sincerely forgave her for the first time from my heart. In that moment, I truly forgot and let go of every offense, to speak of it no more.
I then had to forgive my father, but fear of being hurt again and pride stood in my way. That is when God brought the story of the unmerciful servant to my attention. You can find this story in Matthew Chapter 18. It’s a story about a servant who owed a debt to a king. The servant did not have the money to repay him, so the king ordered that the servant, his family and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
But the servant pleaded with his master for patience. So, the king had mercy on him, cancelled the debt and let him go free.
That same servant, however, went out and ran into a fellow peer that owed him a debt. But, unlike the king, he showed no mercy and began to choke him telling him to pay back the debt he owed him, and on top of it, had him thrown in prison.
I thought to myself wow! I was choking my father just like the unmerciful servant choked his peer. I felt such remorse in my heart. I serve a merciful Father in heaven, who forgave me for every sin I ever committed. Though I deserved to be choked, He let me go free. While I was yet in my sin, He still chose to bless me. So who am I to hold another man hostage for his wrongdoing? I am nobody to do that. We all sin and fall short. Therefore, I DIDN’T HAVE RIGHTS to hold my father, when God did not do that to me.
Christ died so that we could avoid paying a deathly price. Had it not been for Christ’s sacrifice, we all would be on our way to that eternally dark place. I don’t know whom you are holding in your heart today, but if you are without sin, then by all means, go ahead and cast the first stone. You don’t have rights to keep anyone indebted to you. You don’t have rights to choke another man, when Christ let you walk free. In the same way, that Christ showed us mercy, we must show mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ~Romans 3:23
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." ~John 8:7
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” ~ Matthew 18:32-35
After reading that story, I worked up the courage to call my father. With tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath and said, “Dad, I forgive you.” Right after, I exhaled and immediately it felt like a weight had lifted off of my shoulders and like heaven had opened unto me. God gave me a vision of a wound closing up in my heart. It was sealed completely shut. He healed me. I then felt his presence like never before. Picture God holding a big blanket with his arms outstretched. He wrapped me in that blanked of love. I believe that was His way of comforting me. He knew that forgiving my father and letting go of that pain was not easy for me.
When I forgave my parents, I released them from the prison of my heart into God’s hands. When I released them from my heart, the pain that I was holding inside was released with them. With the help of God, I ultimately set myself free from the pain of my past.
Today I ask you, whom are you holding in your heart? If you are struggling to forgive here are some a few tips to help you:
1. Nobody can serve justice better than God.
When people cut us deeply, it can be hard to let go of their offense. I believe that sometimes we think that when we don’t forgive, we are punishing that person for the pain that they caused us, and are further doing ourselves justice for the way they treated us. But know that when you hold on to the offense, you are holding yourself captive both to the pain and the memory of that pain. The weight is way too heavy to carry. The burden is too heavy to bear. Free yourself by releasing them from the prison of your heart. Nobody can handle those who have hurt you better than Christ Jesus. He’s a just God. Plus, there is no room in your heart to hold both those that have offended you and God. You don’t have room to hold both bitterness and peace. You don’t have room to hold both pain and joy. If you really want to take it there, some of those people aren’t even worth the space in your heart. Think about it and then let them go.
2. See those who have hurt you the way that God sees them.
God doesn’t see those who have hurt us the way we see them. We are all children of God and God admires is children. He sees us as radiant beams of light. Just like our earthly parents, His arms are always outstretched ready to embrace us no matter what we’ve done. Look at that person through the eyes of God. He doesn’t see the filth of our flesh, but yet the beauty of our hearts and spirits. Try to see the heart of those who have hurt you. We have no rights to hold anyone who belongs to our King.
3. Choose yourself and choose the fear of the Lord.
When we forgive it is not for the other person, it is for ourselves. As I stated earlier, when we hold unforgiveness in our hearts, we are holding onto the offense and the memory of that offense. This in turn causes us to hold onto pain. Choose to let go of that heavy burden for yourself. You deserve to enjoy your life. There are things that God desires to release to you, and you cannot move forward carrying the pain of the past with you. How can He bless you with a new husband, when you are holding onto the pain from an old boyfriend? How can He bless you with children, when you are holding onto the pain of your own childhood? How can He give you a Kingdom assignment when you don’t know how to do one of the main things He requires—to love your neighbor as yourself and forgive?
Therefore, when you don’t forgive, you are doing yourself and your future a huge disservice. Not only that, you’d be doing your husband, friends, children, and family a huge disservice by remaining broken. When you’re broken, you’re not your best self. When I struggled to forgive my parents, I thought about myself, and what my future would look like if I did not let go. I thought how unfair it would be to not only myself, but also my husband and future children if I constantly gave them a broken version of me. That broken me, could have potentially destroyed my entire family.
Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. ~Matthew 9:17
We grow and develop into who God created us to be daily, and you will never walk into your full potential or divine purpose, if you are walking around wounded. Choose yourself, choose your family, choose your future and forgive.
Choose to fear the Lord. Obedience is important to God. All throughout His Word He puts emphasis on the word OBEDIENCE. Forgiveness is a requirement. It is something He clearly asks us to do. When we don’t do it, it has the potential to create blockage in our lives because God’s Word clearly states that He will not hear us when we regard wickedness in our hearts. Unforgiveness is a form of evil and disobedience. However, when we let go of our pride and turn from our wicked ways, He will be faithful to hear our prayers and answer.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14
If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear. ~Psalm 66:18
Look at where you are in life today. Can you afford to choose not to forgive? Can you afford for God not to hear your prayers? I looked at where my life currently was, and looked at where I wanted to be a few years from now and said to myself, “I cannot afford not to forgive. I cannot afford to be stifled in my spiritual life nor my natural life.” Whatever you are holding onto, let it go. You cannot afford to be unforgiving. Let me tell you something else. The enemy does not want you to win. He wants you to be unforgiving so that you can stay stuck right where you are. Don’t let him get that glory.
4. Try to be understanding and figure out the role that you’ve played.
One reason I was so hard on my parents is because I was unable to understand why they could not be there for me like I needed and desired them to be. I was unable to see things from their perspective. My parents had me when they were teenagers. When you’re a teenager, you’re just trying to figure out your life and get things together. I don’t know about you, but my twenties have rough. Getting on your feet can be rough. So, I can only imagine trying to do it as a teenager with a child. My mom was focused on “getting her life.” Additionally, she had her own issues that she was dealing with. When you have complications in life, it can cause you to be disoriented. So, she couldn’t always be morally supportive, when she had her own issues that she was dealing with. In the case of my father, I recognized the role that I played. In my pain, I pushed him away, which in turn created more distance then there probably had to be. So take a step into the other person’s shoes, and try to see the situation from their point of view. I'm not saying to totally excuse their behavior. I'm just saying try understand. Understanding has the ability to bring clarity, which in turn may help to soften your heart a bit and fill you with compassion. Also, if you may have played any role in the situation, figure out what that is, then own it and change it.
5. Know that forgiveness is a process.
As a matter of fact, you may have to forgive the same person for that same offense, multiple times. Instances will arise that may remind you of the pain they caused you. After I forgave my parents, so many events took place that made want to get mad all over again. But I immediately remembered the pain I was previously in by holding on. So I got rid of the offense immediately. Each time that offense comes to your mind, get rid of it immediately. Don’t let it fester in your heart. Cast the spirit of offense down. If you find yourself struggling to let go, reach out and ask your Heavenly Father for help. Know that your forgiveness does not have to be perfect. But, in your heart you must truly be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Ask God to help you forgive today.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~ Matthew 18: 21-22
6. Remember to forgive yourself.
When we come to repentance for our wrongdoing, we can sometimes be hard on ourselves. I felt such remorse in my heart for imprisoning my parents. I felt so shameful. I thought about how wicked I was in my heart. I kept asking God to forgive me over and over. But, know that when you go to the Father and ask Him to forgive you, it is one and done. You only have to ask once, when you mean it from the heart. He hears when you ask from your heart. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're human. Plus, how could you learn to forgive if you never really had to.
8. Forgiveness brings reconciliation and the freedom to simply live.
After forgiving my father, I was able to be reconciled with him. I then was free to allow myself to love him, and it feels really good. God is the definition of LOVE. We are His ambassadors and we cannot represent Him well, if we are not able to love even those that we may find hard to love. Maybe you’re a wife whose husband has cheated on you, or maybe you’re like me, and have shut those that have hurt you out. Know that forgiveness brings restoration. Unforgiveness creates division and strife. But the best part is that forgiveness gives us the opportunity to freely live and enjoy our lives without being in bondage to the pain of our past. It brings joy, peace and freedom— freedom to live, freedom to love, freedom to allow yourself to be loved and freedom to enjoy the beautiful pleasures of this life the way that God intended. So, go head and free yourself.
Just a few things:
If you’re interested in walking through a spiritual coaching process like I did, check out Kingdom Destiny Coaching with Prophet Patricia Rucker. I walked through a coaching process with her and it really helped me pinpoint some of the wounds I was dealing with. Her information is below:
Email: email@example.com, Website: www.pattyrucker.com, Phone: 412-608-4267
2. Be sure to subscribe to the site for the latest updates and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more inspiration @brandiholness. Thank you for your support!