The Letter That Changed Me
Written by Tiffany Stuart
Cross Post from Ungrind
I sat in front of my computer about to do something I never imagined doing: write a letter to my molester.
A few days prior, my husband casually mentioned his upcoming business trip. I felt sick and angry inside when I heard where. Attached to this city name were memories from thirty-three years ago Iâ€™d rather forget.
I never told my parents what happened to me in second grade. Shame kept me quiet until I was in high school. I have no idea why, but one day I casually told a relative what happened. Maybe I needed to be heard and understood. I felt self-conscious sharing what I remembered, like I was making things up.
Not a single tear was cried over my abuseâ€”not during, not after, not ever. When I told a few trusted friends about my past, I emotionally separated myself and told it as a â€ślong, long time ago this happened to meâ€ť story. My lack of tears convinced me I was OK. But deep down, I knew better. Hearing a city name awoke something inside of me I buried alive decades earlier. Pain.
I knew I needed to get to the root of my pain. After a conversation with my family, I googled this guyâ€™s full name. I cried what I now call my â€śdeath cryâ€ť with what I uncovered.
My memories were true.
I wasnâ€™t crazy.
My worst fears realized: This multimillionaireâ€”a repeated sex offenderâ€”spent his entire life molesting children! Nothing stopped him. His wealth spared him. And the worst part was I wasnâ€™t his only victim. His track record ripped through state lines like a tornado and left devastation in the hearts of many young boys and girls.
Sorrow and outrage shook me to my core. I wanted to stand up for every child he had ever hurt. I also wanted to die. Now what? Clueless, I sobbed one minute and then walked around numb the next.
For some reason I needed to know if this monster was still alive, so I paid $13.95 to search site to find out. He was! Now in his early 80â€™s with health issues, he violated probation only a few years prior. Still a sick, sick man!
I had to make a decision. I couldnâ€™t ignore my past any longer. I could either go after this creep once and for allâ€”or let him go. Torn with emotions, I prayed, journaled, and talked with family and friends.
A few days later, I sat alone with my laptop and stared at a blank word document. Time to give this guy a piece of my mind. I prayed, took deep breaths, teared up, and started typing. At first I struggled to find words. What words are strong enough to describe what he did? None. After a page of sharing with him my experience and pain, I decided it was time to say Iâ€™m done. As I continued, I asked him hard questions. I even probed into what he might be thinking now as an old man about to meet his Maker. I told him what saved me from destroying myself: my faith in Jesus.
Something amazing happened as I kept writing.
I wrote words I never dreamed of writing. Words about forgiveness and love and the hope of heaven. The strangest feeling came over me as wrote out a salvation prayer and invited him to know my Healer. My heart soared with peace and joy. I felt more alive and full of Godâ€™s love than ever before. The weight of unforgiveness after all those years finally lifted.
The next day I sent the letter unsigned with no return address. It was finished. I was free! Who knew I could actually pen words of love and forgiveness to one of the most evil of men?
God did. He gets all the credit.
That day I witnessed a real miracleâ€”a miracle in my heart. The healing power of forgiveness. God in action.
This experience taught me a couple truths I hope I never forget.
Never hold onto unforgiveness. Itâ€™s not worth it. Unforgiveness is a heavy yoke.
Forgiveness is hard to doâ€”and sometimes takes decades (in my case)â€”but it brings freedom. Freedom to heal. Freedom to love.
No matter how bad the offense feels, Iâ€™m learning the best path is straight towards forgiveness. Lewis B. Smedesâ€™s quote says it best: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
For over thirty years, I was held captive by unforgiveness. Today I feel the difference. Iâ€™m lighterâ€”not physicallyâ€”but mentally and emotionally and spiritually.
Since this letter, Iâ€™ve thought over and over again about Jesusâ€™ words as He hung dying on the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they doâ€ť (Luke 23:34). How could Jesus just let these offenders of the hook after all they did to Him? His words make no sense. Did Jesus know something they didnâ€™t? Did His heart soar with peace and joy as He spoke forgiveness? Even as Christ was dying, did He feel completely alive and full of love by releasing His offenders? I bet He did.
God is love! His ways are not our ways.
I also think about how Christ treated the criminal hanging next to Him. Jesus did not say, â€śItâ€™s too late, buddy. Die without hope.” Instead He said, â€śSee you in paradise.â€ť Not a cold shoulder, but a warm embrace.
Jesus showed us a different way of living. He lived out forgiveness in action. Itâ€™s taken me decades to really grasp the benefit of true forgiveness.
Iâ€™m thankful for the freedom I now feel with my childhood sexual abuse. I no longer hold unforgiveness in the dark corners of my heart. I no longer cringe inside when I heard that city name. Sure, that city will always have an ugly memory attached to it, but now it has been topped with Godâ€™s healing love. I choose to focus on that.
It’s true with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). The letter I wrote is proof of that to me.