Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Power of Forgiveness

My sophomore year of high school ended with me sitting in the principal’s office taking my finals. Before me sat the bubble sheet waiting for me to answer a myriad of questions; however, the prior week’s trauma made it virtually impossible to concentrate. 

So I set about creating the most beautiful pattern I could on the entire sheet. At that point I didn’t care if I passed or failed. I was too tired and lacked the desire to even be alive.

The prior week my father had been charged with multiple counts of rape and sexual abuse of several girls, all between the ages of 13 and 15. The day of his arrest I came home to find my father handcuffed, sitting on our pumpkin-orange couch, while the police ransacked our apartment looking for evidence of further crimes.

As I watched the police, a combination of relief and fear coursed through my veins. But as my dad began to interject his innocence, I could only stare blankly at him. My dad was guilty, and I knew it because I witnessed some of his actions. Those events became a chokehold on my soul for years to come, thrusting me into the shadow of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Pain and Healing

It was difficult growing up with an unmedicated schizophrenic who would self-soothe with drugs and alcohol. He would tell us about seeing demons, and understanding “secrets” of the Bible that no one else understood. Mainly, though, he had a hair-trigger temper that he would unleash on whomever was in his imaginary war, which was pretty much everyone—including his kids. Everyday felt like another skirmish in a battle that lasted years.

While I had come into a relationship with Jesus when I was 17, I hadn’t understood what he wanted of me in the way of forgiveness. Forgiveness felt “required” and not a path to my freedom that it actually is. In my mind, when I heard that word, it felt like absolution for someone who deserved the severest of penalties. How could Jesus expect me to forgive? Hadn’t he witnessed the heinous things my dad had committed?

He had—and had wept over what I endured.

When we bring our deepest pain to Jesus, he whispers words of healing. In fact, he walks through it knowing the pain we’ve experienced. Jesus endured probably the worst physical and emotional pain to purchase life and freedom for us. In trusting him, I had to trust that he knew what he was doing when asking me to forgive. I also had to trust that he knew how to exact any justice that was needed on my behalf even if I never saw it. As you think about forgiveness, invite him into the process. Be honest about how you feel with God and maybe even to a trusted friend. God can do amazing things if we but let him in.

– This is the first blog from Jennifer Osborn in a three-part series on mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

Love Your Neighbor by Eddie Ensley


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