As I spent time listening to Gloria, her story went something like this: Day and night I can't get Tina off my mind. Every woman I meet, has some resemblance of her and my stomach turns into a knot.
Weeks, months, years passed. Was I never to be free of this woman who had gone after my husband and then, following our divorce, married him? The resentment, guilt and anger drained the life out of everything I did. I blamed myself. I went into counseling. I attended self-help classes, I read books. I talked to anyone who would listen. I ran. I walked. I drove for miles to nowhere. I screamed into my pillow at night. I prayed. I did everything I knew how to do.
Then one Saturday, I was drawn to a daylong seminar on the healing power of forgiveness held at a church. The leader invited us to close our eyes and locate someone in our lives that we had not forgiven - for whatever reason, real or imagined. TINA. There she was again, looming large in my mind's eye. Next, he asked us to look at whether or not we'd be willing to forgive that person. My stomach churned, my hands perspired and my head throbbed. I had to get out of that room, but something kept me in my seat.
How could I forgive a person like Tina? She had not only hurt me, but she'd hurt my children. So I turned my attention to other people in my life. My mother. She'd be easy to forgive. Or my friend, Sue. Anyone but TINA. But there was no escape. The name, and the image of her face, persisted. Then a voice within gently asked, "Are you ready to let go of this? To release her? To forgive yourself, too?"
I turned hot, then cold. I started to shake. I was certain everyone around me could hear my heart beating.
Yes, I was willing. I couldn't hold on to my anger any longer. It was killing me. In that moment, an incredible shift occurred within me. I simply let go. I can't describe it. I don't know what happened or what allowed me at that moment to do something I had resisted so much. All I know is that for the first time in four years I completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit. I released my grip on Tina, on my ex-husband, on myself. I let go of the rage and resentment - just like that.
Within seconds, energy rushed through every cell of my body. My mind became alert, my heart lightened. Suddenly I realized that as long as I separated myself from even one person, I separated myself from God. How self-righteous I had been. How important it had been for me to be right, no matter what the cost. And it had cost me plenty - my health, and my aliveness.
That night I slept straight through until morning. No dreams. No haunting face. No reminders.
The following Monday I walked into my office and wrote Tina a letter. The words spilled onto the page without effort. I had denied both of us the healing power of forgiveness. I apologized for my hateful thoughts.
Two days later, the phone rang, "Gloria?" "It's Tina." She thanked me for the letter and acknowledged my courage in writing it. All I had ever wanted to hear from her, she said that day.
As I replaced the receiver, another insight came to me. I realized that as nice as it was to hear her words of apology, they didn't really matter, compared to what God was teaching me. No one can hurt me as long as I am in God's hands. Unless I allow it, no one can rob me of my joy.
FORGIVENESS IS A POWERFUL TOOL!