“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.” While I have no idea who wrote this brilliant quote, I thought it was quite accurate for this post on growing pains and dives just a little deeper on forgiveness. What does forgiveness have in common with growing pains? When I picture growing pains, I think of that really short kid in my middle school class who had a growth spurt the summer before high-school, grew really tall and always complained about his legs hurting, he would say “growing pains”. Replace that pain in the limbs with the pain inside the human heart. While I am sure one can argue that the physical pain in the limbs would hurt more than the heart, I want to counter that argument. In order to do so, I want to begin with going back 22 years ago.
Let’s venture back to 1994, 22 years ago to the beautiful country of Rwanda, Africa. The Rwandan genocide, a mass slaughter of the Tutsi tribe by members of the Hutu majority government. This genocide resulted in the loss of 800,000 Rwandans in the period of three months. The most loss of human life in the history of genocides to occur in the shortest time frame. I recently visited this country, and I was surprised to see that it was filled with so much love even though the people had suffered so much hate just twenty short years ago. This love was such a testimony for my own life, seeing that forgiveness seemed to set these people free, and my own sufferings seemed so small compared to theirs. They also looked a lot more joyful than I! It’s as though they had “forgiveness” written on their foreheads, it was that obvious. The Rwandans were unbounded from the hate that once filled their heart, hate was replaced by love. After all, love is stronger than hate. (Said by a Rwandan survivor)
I want to share a short personal experience on how I witnessed the power of forgiveness in my own life. When I saw the children of Rwanda , and how much light filled their eyes, I knew it was the light of God, and I wanted to experience that light more than anything. How did I do that? I revisited the wounds of my past, I chose two people in my life that hurt me, and I also chose myself. In a small village called Kibeho, the heart of Rwanda (how symbolic), I confessed to Jesus my pain, my resentment, and asked Him to teach me how to best love the people I had chosen, with a Christ like love. I realized, it wasn’t really about the people I chose, it was the wound in myself that I had been avoiding. Because of that resentment that I had stored away in the center of my heart, I was experiencing unnecessary pain. I was searching for my identity in those people who hurt me. I made that wound my identity, I was consumed in it. Because my heart longed for so much love, it always felt like I was giving so much, and not receiving the fill that I hungered for.
Side note:When I said I confessed to Jesus my pain, I did this by going to a Catholic priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you know what that means? Thankfully we have a smart and clever God, no matter where we are, there is always a Catholic Church with a confessional. I want you to know that even though my own experience may seem as though I had to go on a pilgrimage to another country to heal, that simply is not the case with our Lord, we are dealing with a God of simplicity. Check out what Jesus says to Saint Faustina about one of my favorite Sacraments of mercy:
To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage, or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to Him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated.
This healing process obviously does not happen over night, but that it why it is called growing pains. I grew to resent those people because I felt as though they were robbing me of the love I thought I deserved. They constantly would tell me they did their best to love me with the capacity they had. I did not understand that then. So I blamed them. I used to rack my brain thinking there was something wrong with me because I desired an abnormal amount of love, but then I pictured Jesus looking down at me on the cross saying, “I thirst”. He (more than I) is always hungering for more love. Jesus chooses souls, not that appear strong physically, but those who can suffer martyrdom of the heart. Mary may not have died on a cross, but She suffered a different type of passion, seven swords of sorrow pierced Her heart. What an Immaculate Heart. Forgiveness led me to discover my true identity in Christ the King my Savior. Ruler of my heart, I am no longer a prisoner!
~For Our Lady of Kibeho~
Thank you, Alaisa Melgoza for inspiring me to write on this subject!