It is a marvelous thing to read of Jesus setting free men and women who are despised and rejected, shackled by shame, and crippled by the behavioral habits learned in their struggle to survive. We rejoice in his love and mercy that turns their darkness of soul to lightness of spirit.
Early in my career I drove myself into a state of physical and emotional exhaustion and spiritual bankruptcy. God intervened very directly to relieve me of my burdens of performance. He set me on a course of repentance that has zigged and zagged at times but continues to this day.
It was the most important turning point in my life. It awakened my hunger for God and the things of God. It led to a revival in our family and among our friends. Lives were changed as a result.
Repentance is a change of direction, but we have to walk back from where God turns us around. We live with the same people we knew before in the same circumstances that we knew them before God’s intervention.
There is a temptation is to listen to those people and to our own reactions to them instead of listening to God. We have to learn to hear and obey God rather than the voices around us and the tapes of doubt and reaction that play in our heads.
For as long as I can remember, clear back to my childhood, a dark shadow lurked in my heart of cast by unresolved conflict and pain from physical and emotional abuse. I worked to overcome it for years by trial and error, by prayer, and counseling.
I experienced were some wonderful breakthroughs and changes, but the shadow remained. Even my embrace of God’s grace couldn’t dispel it.
My wife, Patty, understood my issues. Her love was both healing and fiercely protective. She was, in the words of my counselor, “a screen door” for me.
Two weeks after Patty died, my son Andrew surprised me on afternoon by asking me, “I know that you suffered a lot, Dad, but have you ever forgiven ____ for hurting you?”
I gave him a long look and said, “The mere fact I can’t give you an answer is the answer. I don’t think about it much. Why do you ask this now?”
“Because I know this is something that hurt you and eats at you, and I would like you to have peace.” Andrew told me.
I love my son and value his judgment. I was planning to get counseling for my grief over the loss of Patty. Experience has taught me it is wise to do so. Andrew’s question gave me added impetus to seek help.
My counselor is a compassionate, thoughtful man. He listened to my story and said, “Why do you think this is coming up now?”
“The loss of Patty stirred up the silt in the bottom of my soul, I think.”
He nodded in understanding.
The next session he asked me, “How do you think you get past this?”
I pondered for a moment and said, “I don’t have a clue. That’s hard for me to admit because I am a thinking person and I strive to know myself.
“I am familiar with the Scriptures on forgiveness. I have read widely on that topic, have given talks on it and written entire series of essays on it. Forgiveness is the key to answered prayer and is the essence of the Gospel message.
“When my son asked me if I had forgiven the person who’d abused me, I felt a dead, hollow place in my soul. I know that isn’t compatible with forgiveness which should yield peace.
“I am not burning with anger about this. It was so long ago and the person is dead and gone. We had even made peace of a sort before she died.
“What happened even made me a tougher, better lawyer because it taught me to lay everything out on the table and tell my adversary, ‘Take your best shot, but you better hope you have enough to beat me. If you don’t what are you going to do.’
‘That tactic works, but it makes me ache all over. I would like that ache to go away.”
My counselor nodded in sympathy.
I thought about the question, “How do you get past this?” I prayed to the Lord for help and healing. The counselor asked me again, “How will you get past this?”
“I know I am broken because I can’t figure out how to resolve this. I am a guy that finds solutions, but I seem to be missing something deep within me. I always thought brokenness meant pain, but this runs deeper than pain in me. I lack things I should have in the way of strength and resolution.”
The counselor said, “Then we will have to work on that together.”
It occurred to me later that no one helped me at the time of the abuse, though people glimpsed what was going on. I discussed this with my brother with whom I am especially close. I was on my own and so alone.
“Where was I?” he asked. “I was your big brother. I should have done something.”
“Oh, Terry,” I said. “You couldn’t have done anything. You were away at school. You are seven years older than me. There is a big gap between ages 15 and 8. I had no one to tell and I just had to learn to protect myself.
Not having anyone to tell or help, meant I had to bear things alone. I realize now that without validation and support I just had to hang on. When you grip anything in your hand long enough your fingers stiffen around it so you can’t let go. It is the same way with my soul.
Two days later, the interior designer working on my house talked with me about a painting to be hung over the fireplace mantel. “You have a good eye for art,” she said.
“Really?” I replied. I guess if that’s true it is because of this extraordinary gift of three years of training that I received from a distinguished artist between my third and sixth grade years. It was quickly established that I have no artistic ability, but the artist talked to me about color, style and visualization and the relationship of art to society.
“I loved those lessons. Any sense of design I have now stems from that training. And I am grateful for it.”
The same person who gave me the gift was the one who had hurt me.
On the phone with my brother, the next evening, I told him about my conversation with the designer. We discussed some good things from our childhoods that we had both received from that same complicated person.
Physical and emotional feelings rose in me I could not remember ever having before – a settled peace and sense of wholeness. I said, “Brother, let’s stop a second and let me tell you what I am experiencing right now.
“I feel light and happy. I have never felt this way when I talk about what happened back then.
My brother said, “I can hear it in your voice and what you are saying. Whenever you and I have talked about that time it is like you have a frame and everything is dark in that frame. Now, it sounds like there is a hole piercing that darkness and light is flowing through.”
“It’s true,” I replied, “and it’s good.”
The peaceful light feelings have continued since them. I’ve been relieved of a great weight shame and betrayal that I had carried for so long that I didn’t know how to put it down.
The day after I talked to my brother, a Scripture came to mind.
Paul wrote to the Romans—
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs and groans too deep for words. And God who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom 8:26-27).
That’s exactly what happened here. The Lord heard my confession that I did not know how to resolve the deep brokenness in my soul. Gratitude then opened the door a crack and God began to pour his grace into me.
God did for me what I absolutely could not do for myself. He pried the hard thing right out of my clenched soul and said, “Here, you’ll never be able to set it down, but I will take it from you.” I am overwhelmed by his grace and joyful to receive it.
I write and tell you about this because “What is impossible for man, is possible for God” (Luke 18:27). Jesus said that and it is true – so very true.
There are some harsh, graphic, painful details that I’ve held back including the identity of the abuser. I have no wish to dwell on them. God gathered up the jagged, painful fragments and carried them an eternity away (Psalm 103). They can’t hurt me or anyone else through me anymore.
Those of us who grew up in Christian families and churches, learned songs about how Jesus takes our burdens away and lightens our spirits, but the truth is much more than an appealing lyric.
The reality of Jesus’ love is much better than the description. I really want you to know that for yourself.
This is all I have to say, but whatever you’re carrying, I pray that you take hope from this message.
O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.