Dreaming of Forgiveness
As I write this, I’m sitting in the Portland, Oregon airport waiting to board my flight to Boston with a layover in Houston. It’s 10:47 p.m. and I’ll soon (I hope) be on the red eye, trying to get some sleep. I doubt it will be the kind of deep sleep that leads to dreaming.
For the past couple of days a blog post idea has been flitting around in my head that has to do with dreaming. Or more accurately, it has to do with a specific dream. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to write that post.
This is a true story of a dream I had 13 years ago, but it is as vivid in my memory today as it was the moment I awoke from it. But before I get to the dream, a little background (some of which those who have read much of my blog will already know, some of which I’ve only shared one-on-one with people I know).
I had been struggling with major clinical depression for almost 7 years. There had been some good days, weeks, maybe even a month here and there, during that 7 years. But never any lasting relief. Even before that I had dealt with low grade depression for a long as I could remember. Through it all I blamed one person for all my misery. I’d been blaming him for almost 20 years. I was sure what he had done was the reason for my depression and that there was nothing I could do about it. I had become convinced that I would always be miserable. My regular mantra was that he had ruined my life.
So you might be wondering what he did that was so terrible. I’ve thought a lot about whether I would include that piece of information here. I’ve shared it with friends, but I’ve decided not to do so in my blog. I believe that this post will have a greater impact if I don’t because the principles I learned through this story aren’t dependent on the wrong that was done to me. Just as we don’t know what the thorn was in Paul’s side that he asked the Lord to remove (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), so that his story has a universal message that Jesus’ grace is sufficient for any suffering, I think my story will have more universal appeal if the reader can fill in the blanks with whatever wrong has been done to them.
You might also be wondering if my life really was miserable during this time so as to warrant being depressed. I assure you it was not. I was (and still am) married to a wonderful man who loves me and would do anything for me. We lived in a nice house. I had graduated from law school cum laude and had a pretty good job. My sweet, loveable son was also born during this time. I actually had, as George Bailey would say, “a wonderful life.”
Still, I was in utter despair and medication was not helping. I mentioned in My Tuesday Three last week about my friend June who invited me to my first Bible study, which happened towards the end of my 7 years of major depression. It was while I was attending this Bible study on a weekly basis that I had the dream.
Okay, now to the dream. It started out with me standing at the checkout counter at the grocery story. I paid for my groceries and turned to leave. There he was, on his knees, asking me to forgive him. But I walked away. Suddenly I was at the post office mailing some letters. I finished my business with the postal clerk and turned to leave. There he was again, on his knees, asking me to forgive him. But I walked away. This scenario was repeated at the bank, the library, and several other of the regular places one goes in life.
He was everywhere in my life in this dream, but not trying to ruin it. He was always asking for forgiveness. I awoke from the dream and knew immediately what I needed to do. God had been trying to tell me this very thing in various ways for quite some time, but I hadn’t listened. I couldn’t ignore this clear message of forgiveness.
So that is what I did. It wasn’t easy, and I had to pray for God to help me, but I forgave him. Suddenly a flood of names came to my mind. People who had “trespassed against me” in some way or another over the years; people I was holding a grudge against. All the bitterness I had been holding in my heart came pouring out and I began to cry. I asked God for forgiveness for my failure to forgive for so long.
The effect on my depression was not immediate, but it didn’t take very long compared to how long I had been struggling. Within just a few months I was off antidepressants and have not had to take them since. There are still days, sometimes weeks, when the darkness returns (though not as deeply as it had consumed me for those 7 years). For me, I can usually trace the lurking threat of depression to someone I’m angry with, someone I need to forgive. I’m reminded of the lesson of dreaming of forgiveness.
Note: I am not suggesting that unforgiveness or other unrepentant sin is the root of all depression. This is just my story, and I believe I’m not alone in the root of my struggle. I write this for those who, like me, have been hurt and have hung onto the bitterness that such wrongs can cause.
Linda, I’m so grateful you shared this glorious story. It reminds me of a definition I once heard of depression: anger turned inward. Also, it brings to mind the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18. You know the story well, I’m sure. But the part that has changed my heart most of all is the final verse, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Unless I forgive from the heart I too will be turned over to the tormenters.
One day a friend of mine shared with me a revelation she’d had about this verse. The ‘tormenters’ could very well be mental anguish, depression, or physical illness resulting from unforgiveness. We could be destroyed for lack of this knowledge, couldn’t we?
Debra, About two months before this dream, my sister actually gave me a book called “Depression is Anger Turned Inward.” Although I don’t believe that is the only cause of depression, hanging onto anger will definitely lead to torment of the soul. I agree that the Matthew 18 parable fits. Thanks for adding that. Peace, Linda
Linda, I’m praying that this helps many who are going through a crushing and painful experience, suffering hurt at someone else’s hands. The dream, the message of forgiveness, and how He worked that out in your life is huge. What an amazing God and testimony He has given you. God bless you and thank you for sharing! 🙂
Thank you, Linda,
So thankful for His deliverance in your circumstances. How great is our God indeed! So thankful for His truth and Light and His anointing that “breaks every yoke!” May He shower you with even more peace as You continue offer Him praise for taking you through this.
In my own walk, there are few things I find as freeing and rewarding as releasing me to Him. There is freedom in laying my issues at His feet yet the freedom somehow binds me closer to Him. The more we walk with burdens the less we become aware of the need to let them go. The extra weight becomes such a part of our norm we sometimes forget we have them! Still, He says “Cast your burden” and “Come to me and I will give you rest…”
At this point in my life, I am truly thankful for the healing I could never afford to pay for.
Ann, Thank you for the wonderful prayer. Peace seems to be lacking a bit this week, and so I do appreciate your prayer that I be showered with more. Seems I keep learning the same lesson over and over. Peace, Linda
Once again it seems we are on the same thought pattern. I posted a blog on de-activating the bomb of harboured feelings last week.
Typical of many abused people, I didn’t harbour unforgiveness because I thought it was all my fault: that I deserved the wrongs I received, because I was so evil. However, in later years I did tend to blame my “hang-ups” on him. I have no doubt they were caused by his actions, but I didn’t acknowledge that I was responsible for my responses – and that all-powerful help was available to assist me.
Praise God for the wonderful release when He graciously led me through all that had happened and gave me victory!
Indeed He is an amazing God!
Angela, I certainly went through the time when I thought it was all my fault, but by the time I nosedived into major depression I’d had enough counseling to have dealt with that aspect. I’m so thankful that our Amazing Jesus knows what we’ve been through and has shown us the way to healing and victory! Peace, Linda
Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. The wonderful thing is that when we want to forgive He is there to help us do it. He is also there with the reward – the sweetness of His presence that is so precious.
The pain, the awful, sickening pain that we carry around from day to day isn’t caused by the initial hurt – it’s caused by the holding on! Let it go and forgive. Amen.
Myfanwy, So true. Some things weren’t meant to be held onto. Others, like the love of Christ, we should cling to with all our might. Peace, Linda