A Bold Forgiveness

A Bold Story by Andrea Cisneros

How did I know asking God to help me forgive my sister in law would lead to a deeply spiritual experience? I didn’t of course.

 It all started a few weeks ago when my dear friend Kris invited me to be a part of her boldness challenge group. She instructed us to write down 3-5 bold actions you have always wanted to do.  After praying I created this list: 

  1. Play classical piano again. 
  2. Become more than a surface level Christian.
  3. Break free from the need to control everything so that I can cope with my anxiety: therefore being filled with life again
  4. Finally deal with my unforgiveness toward my sister-in-law and my step daughter

As I read other boldness challenger lists I thought to myself that my list seemed very unimpressive. But I moved forward with my list. I had no idea how to completely forgive my sister-in-law and step daughter as their past hurt had happened many years ago. So again, I reached out for God’s hand.

During this same time, my husband and I were in discussion about our annual Mammoth five-day tent camping trip with my husband’s side of the family. This was not the year to go! Not with Covid19.  I did everything in my power to make this trip not happen. Covid19 was my main excuse. After all, we would have to share the public bathrooms and showers with everyone at the camp site. Who wants to do that these days? But my real reason was spending all this time with my husband’s sister. Four years ago, she was very frustrated with her brother, my husband, and she said some very hurtful things.  Things that I’ve held onto. I felt I had a right to after all, she was out of line and never should have said the things she said. Now you must know that she did apologize to me three years ago with an excuse that I deemed lame and so I didn’t accept her apology or forgive her. I didn’t know how to get beyond myself and my inability to forgive so I gave it to God as we headed to Mammoth last week.

There is a back story here that I didn’t plan for: healing from my anxiety and a need to control everything. It has been pretty crippling. My husband created a “man cave” and he chose pictures to hang on the wall from our first trip to Mammoth trip 10 years ago. As I looked at those pictures I remember how deeply moved I was to experience the beauty of the mountains and streams around the Mammoth area. I wanted to be that woman again — one who feels and sees and experiences the beauty of God’s creation. I didn’t want to be defined by my anxiety anymore. Again, how do I get over this anxiety that rose out of nowhere following my mother’s unexpected death two years ago? One week after that, my husband had brain surgery to completely rebuild his middle cerebral artery that had an aneurism which left him greatly compromised. His hospital stay was eight days instead of three. His doctor wanted to send him to a rehabilitation facility but I said I would care for him — 24 hours a day for months.  I was terrified and grief stricken from my mother’s death but my focus was to help him get back on his feet. He returned to work March of that year but I was shocked to realize how much recovery was still needed. I cared for him as he slowly returned to normal…a new normal. Then August of that year, my oldest sister died.  That all being said I’m dealing with a form of PTSD according to my doctor.

The day before we left for Mammoth I watched the news. It was all about the spike in numbers of virus cases. I texted my friend that I was struggling with giving this camp trip to God when it seemed so risky. As she has always done, she challenged me that I once again was making an excuse to not be with my sister-in-law for five days. She said, “This may sound morbid but you could die tomorrow in a car accident on the way there. Do you want to stand in front of God and say proudly, ‘I trusted you fully!’?”. Thanking her once again for being so honest I told her I had been looking at the pictures my husband put on the wall in his man cave.  I want to be that woman again. I want to live free from fears. I want to see the beauty that surrounds me. I want to feel God’s glory in His creation. My friend said I should change all the “wants” to “will” and read this out loud in front of the mirror.  And then tighten my belt of truth and sharpen my sword. The battle was on!

The morning we left, my devotional was about forgiving 100%! Not 90% or even 99% but 100%. Unforgiveness doesn’t look good on Christians!  Our first night at camp was disastrous as our air mattress kept leaking and three times that night we woke up to inflate the darn thing. As I lay awake most of the night, I kept surrendering everything to God. Asking Him to give me the energy to enjoy the next day even though I hadn’t slept. I was surprised when I was urged by the Holy Spirit to forgive my husband. Why? Because he has lingering memory issues from his brain surgery he forgets a lot of things. Like the fact that the air mattress had issues when he used it last time. He forgets a lot of things like people’s names. Small things really but this wasn’t the person I married. I was greatly annoyed.  So now I’m being asked to forgive him because, ”he didn’t do this on purpose.” OK. 

We started the next day focused on repairing the air mattress. Then off we went to kayak Twin Lakes. What a magnificent experience! The sky was so blue and the air so fresh. We paddled around and saw a beautiful waterfall. There were duck families on the water. I was up close and personal with God’s creation and I was brought to tears. Later the same day we did a short hike to McCloud Lake. I was the woman from 10 years ago! I was filled with awe and wonder.

 We had many experiences that were wonderful and brought tears to my eyes as I experienced fully the glorious creation of God but sleep was not one of them. The second night, sleep was the same and as I surrendered everything to God, I was urged to forgive myself. What? I have been through a traumatic year and a half with everything that has occurred. So I need to forgive myself for not being the person I used to be — that person in those pictures my husband has on his man cave wall. 

Each day we spent our evenings around the campfire and to my surprise one night my sister-in-law said to me, “I love you Andrea.” With tears in my eyes I said, “I love you too” and I meant it. Finally I had forgiven her after all those years. This is what God’s forgiveness looks like. Love! I realized that it is up to me to replace my bad memories of what was said to me years ago with the new memories I made this trip to Mammoth. I will play the new memories we made — memories of love and forgiveness not 90% or even 99% but 100%. Thank you, God, for using me in an amazing way and allowing me to be made new again.

Hank and Andrea enjoying the beauty of Mammoth Mountain California July 2020

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