In my book, Be Made Whole, I wrote about my journey to wholeness after various life altering events. As a woman and mom to a beautiful and precocious 4 year old daughter whom I love with all of who I am. I refuse to live in bitterness and anger. Letting go of the past and learning how to walk in forgiveness has been by far one of the greatest challenges to date and today, I was tried.
Here is an excerpt from my book to give you a background:
[beginning of excerpt]
Suddenly, I am getting attention that I was not used to. I had peers and older guys showing interest in me like never before. Losing weight had worked!
It was not until another incident, that I once again deflated after turning 14.
A deacon from the church, whom I temporarily worked for in high school, confessed his love for me one day after he was bringing me home from work. He was married with children and could have literally been my father so I would have never suspected anything like this from him. About 5 minutes away from my home, he put his right hand on my left thigh, looked at me in the eyes and said, “I think I am in love with you.”
He went on to say how beautiful I was and how delighted he was when he saw me come in the room. The more he spoke, the dirtier I felt. I did not know what to say. His son was one of my closest friends. I was confused. I panicked. Suddenly his words began to muffle and all I could think about was the deacon when I was 8 and the boy when I was 4. Why is this happening to me? What did I do? How could he be in love with me? Am I going to have to quit? I cannot believe this! Because I was practically at his mercy, all I prayed to God while I was trying to regroup and get myself together was, Lord, please let this man drop me off. Please do not let him rape me. Please, Lord. I beg You. Thankfully, he did drop me off. He pulled up in front of our now one family home and before I could run out, he gripped my hand and with tears in his eyes said, “Please do not tell anyone. This is our little secret.”
I could not believe what was happening. It was as if the same words were spoken and the same spirit was haunting me, but it was just a different face. I got into our home and locked myself in my room. I just did not get why this was happening to me. Was I gravitating to these kinds of men? Was it really me? Was it a spirit? I did not have much counsel on what to do about stuff like this and going to a therapist was unheard of, especially for Christian Latinos. In school, we had people come to talk about different things, but because I did not pay attention, I missed out on possible resources that would’ve been helpful. This time, however, I managed to finally start speaking. To this day, I believe that it was only by the grace of God, my mother’s wise words and the sensitivity I had to God that prevented me from committing suicide on multiple occasions.
I told my mother and immediately she confronted the deacon along with my older brother. But because of my mother’s role in the church, my dad’s reputation and our family’s image, she was advised not to report him. Because of the lack of knowledge, she adhered. While ignorance is always said to be bliss, it sure does seem to corrode our communities and churches.
Mom reassures me today that if she knew then what she knows now she surely would have reported him. And I am certain that that’s the truth. That woman fought and still fights for her children. First, on her knees in prayer; then, through her words in wise counsel. . Needless to say, I quit my job, we left the church and we began to attend another church in Elizabeth, NJ. I tried to do what we all try to do with pain... put it all behind us and keep pushing forward.
-Be Made Whole
[end of excerpt]
I wrote about how I forgave him and was able to let go, yet I had not seen him in over a decade. Today I was challenged by the very words I try to live by day by day. And the WAY we bumped into each other... UNSCRIPTED.
My daughter had just finished her ballet class and we were walking out of the studio when a cute little dog runs up to her. I hear a very familiar voice calling out after his puppy saying to leave her alone. His voice was weak and kind. I see an old, feeble man with white hair and suddenly I knew exactly who he was. I paused, unsure of how to react. I had not seen this man since I told my mom what happened and she confronted him. How do I embody love and kindness in this moment, for a man that played a part in tainting my childhood. While he didn't go any further than my thigh, that was enough to send me in a downward spiral given my previous encounters. I was scared. I was angry. I was confused. But I had forgiven him. It was then that God reminded me that this journey of wholeness is deep. Accepting God's love and forgiveness is the first step toward healing. Accepting that God extends that same love and forgiveness for the people that have hurt us is the first step toward wholeness. I was challenged to extend grace to a man, who probably didn't have the wherewithal to ask for forgiveness, so I forgave him anyway. He looks up at me and didn't recognize me. I smiled at him, introduced myself and said, I forgive you. It didn't feel forged. It didn't feel contrived. It was genuine. It was real. It was God. He stood pale and mute. I asked him to greet his family on my behalf and that I pray only the best for them.
His past is not pretty, I'm sure. Neither is mine. And I pray he was not a repeat offender or took it any further with anyone else. I couldn't bear to think if he did anything to anyone else's daughter. But I wouldn't know. It has been so long. I know one thing. Grace is controversial. Forgiveness is not easy. Love is a choice. Wholeness is a journey.
Today, my job wasn't to dig into his patterns or past; my job was to walk in forgiveness and let God's love permeate through my sincerity with the hope that he has seen the light, long before today.
As for me, I witnessed God's work in my heart in a way I could have never imagined. And today, I feel freer than I've ever been. Free to love. Free to live. Free to laugh. Free to F O R G I V E.