Articles

FORGIVENESS: A PLAY IN THREE ACTS
by Eileen Epps-Hamilton

We all have stories to tell about forgiveness—about ourselves or about others. These stories may be as heinous as childhood neglect and abuse or as insignificant as an unintentional oversight. These stories range in intensity, yet each offense leaves an “invisible wound” that can only be perceived by the “eternal eye” of our heavenly Father, who stands ready to heal and restore (Isaiah 61:1). The need to forgive can be created by the most “unlikely acts”.

My story is best communicated as a three-act play. Presenting in this manner, I hope to invite you to reflect on your own story and the blessed ending God has in store for you. The names have been removed to protect the “forgiven.”

Act One (The Exposition)

For over five decades, I had been the proud member of one church since joining at the age of nine. It was within this community-based church that I was raised and nurtured. It was here that I received not only spiritual training, but honed my leadership skills and principals for living. This was “my village”. I even visualized my funeral—the choir would sing and all my church family would be there for my final homegoing. In 50+ years, I had been shepherded by several ministers, since our denomination annually assigned its ministers to their church post. It was in the changing of ministerial leadership that God primed me for my lesson in forgiveness. My spiritual life within my “home church” was about to change forever.

Act Two (The Complication)

The Chinese language includes a symbol for change that describe its true character—danger and opportunity. Anyone who has experienced leadership change, on the job or in the church, can identify with this description. Unfortunately, as change was introduced by new leadership, campaigns of disparagement and personal attack became the norm, with life members, like me, becoming the target. Church members who were my family, my village for over 50 years, now sat silently. The church—my church, was my last thought at night, my first thought when I arose, and my thought throughout the day. I was angry and hurt. My church had become a spiritual stronghold in my life. How sad!

Act Three (The Resolution)

The third act of a dramatic play, is where the conflict comes to some kind of conclusion. It is where the protagonist (who would be me) either gets it or doesn’t. For me, this is where God really began His two-year, IEP (individual education plan) for me. In hindsight, I can now see the plan God had for me—“plans to prosper and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God began by exposing my own spiritual flaws in this complication. He showed me areas in my heart that needed removal—areas of pride and self-righteousness. It was His church—not mine! He was fully aware of the events taking place. My church family including the minister were “the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3) and He alone was their Shepherd, not me.

It was then that the Holy Spirit gently chided me, “You must forgive”. Why? The Holy Spirit then reminded me of the debt of forgiveness I owe in that God forgave me for Christ’s sake (Matthew 6:14-15). My soul cried out to God for justice. The Holy Spirit redirected my thoughts. “Only God can judge” (Psalm 103:6). He began to substitute Satan’s spiritual deception with His truth. Psalm 37 became the “blueprint” I was to follow during this season of change. In 1 John 4 the Holy Spirit transformed my understanding of Godly love and how to daily walk in that love. Reverend Martin Luther King had this to say about love and forgiveness:

          “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive
          is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of
          us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

My final test came in God’s assignment to pray for those who offended me (Matthew 5:44). I exclaimed, “Why? You know I have been verbally abused, publically humiliated and spitefully used”. “Why?” I asked again, to which God gently responded, “Because I told you to!” I then ask God to show me how I was to pray for I was still angry and bitter. And God honored my request. God taught me how to pray until I could begin to see my offenders as He saw them—with compassion and love and mercy. He taught me to pray His will be done for the church. It was a time of heartfelt transformation that only God could do.

Through Soul Healing* sessions, God revealed the last bastion of unforgiveness that remained. I had to admit my hurt by my church family. I had to “lean into it, lift it up and out of me” and finally place it on the Cross for Christ to dispose of as He sees fit. After I learned my final lesson, God released me to find a new church in which I can again serve. But the greatest gift God gave me was an understanding of what true forgiveness is all about.

What began as an exercise in forgiving others ended as an emptying of myself. The change I asked for others and my situation resulted in a change in me. What began as a challenge in “church relations” ended as an understanding of God’s love and grace. I thank God He never gave up on me!

* Soul Healing – The Soul Healing Weekend is 1 1/2 days of Christian worship, teaching, and healing prayer for those in need of the Lord’s touch in the physical, spiritual, and emotional areas of their lives. Visit www.hamw.org and check the Events page to find out more information about the next Soul Healing Weekend.

Eileen Epps-Hamilton
Founder/Teacher
IN THE WORD MINISTRIES
(You can find out more about her Kansas City based ministry atwww.itwministries.org)

The next major event Eileen is planning is going to be on September 27 – Living Out Our Identity.
Visit our Events page at www.hamw.org/events.htmlto learn more.
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Editor’s Note: Below a list of recommended books:

Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall
Listening Prayer by Leanne Payne
Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle