My goal when I started this journey through the book of John was to make it through in 6 months.  I seem to be pretty much on target to finish up in a few weeks.  Some of you began this journey with me and went at a much faster pace and have been finished for a while now.  I know some of you have shared with me that you got behind in your reading and studying which caused you to get discouraged and ‘drop out’ of the study.

 When I started studying the book of John, there were two reasons.  Number one, I had a deep longing to rekindle my passion for Jesus. …to revisit Jesus as a person and soak up the truth of His love for me.  Number two, I had several friends who were new to studying the Bible and I had hoped that by following me as I studied the word of God they would be able to see a glimpse into how the Word of God has impacted my life in the past and how I use it as a guide for my daily thoughts and decisions for the future.

 John chapter 18……For those of you who ‘dropped out,’ let me encourage you to get your Bible and Bible study book back out and start here.  The events of Jesus’ death and resurrection are recorded in these verses.  I know I really should read these verses daily to remind myself of just what Christ did for me!

 This week as I studied the events of chapter 18, I was taken back to several different events in my life.  Times in my life that was marked with betrayal, loneliness, and fear. 

 I realize that anyone in the world can read my blog and so because of that I have debated for a couple weeks as to how ‘real and honest’ I should be when I share about how the events in John 18 shaped who I was during three very difficult times in my life….events in my life where I was betrayed.

 I have chosen to be vague yet I know that many of you have experienced similar circumstances.  So, I will attempt to be as ‘vaguely honest’ as I can be, so that you might understand a little of the extent of what God has carried me through in my life.

 I started this ‘temporary’ blog last year as a 10 year wedding anniversary gift to my husband.  In the beginning, I chronicled the events that led up to my meeting him.  Prior to my meeting my sweet hubby, I had been engaged to be married to another man, but the wedding was cancelled just weeks before it was to take place. 

 The  man that I had been engaged to had filled my head with dreams of our future together serving the God we both loved.  When I realized that much of my dreams had been formed based on lies I had been told, I was devastated beyond words.  My heart had been ripped out of my chest by someone who claimed to love Jesus.    For the months that followed, my life was at somewhat of a crossroads. 

 How could a God who loved me allow me to almost marry someone who I would have no doubt divorced from within the first year?  How could someone who claims to love Jesus, betray another human being in such a way?   How could I ever forgive?  How could I ever trust another man with my heart and dreams?

 As I journeyed through those emotions and grappled with those questions, I spent some intense time in prayer and Bible study.  I did not know for sure where I would end up.  Would I fall deeper in love with the Jesus that I had built my life upon, or would I give it all up because I could not believe in a God that would allow me to go through such pain?

 If you are interested in the details of the results, you can read about it in earlier blogs.  I mention those events again because it was during that time that I learned about the freedom that comes from forgiving someone who has wronged you.

 Looking back over a decade later, I can see clearly that God was teaching me the amazing power of forgiveness.  If I had chosen not to forgive, my life would have been forever shackled to hurt and pain.  By forgiving I was allowing my heart to love in the way that Jesus loves me….with grace despite my failures.

 I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that during that time God was preparing my heart to face the coming years of my life.  

 That 22 year had no idea that within less than a year I would meet the man that would become my life partner.  I had no idea that because I had forgiven, I was ready to open my heart up to receive the true love that awaited me. 

 Likewise, I also had no idea that I was learning to forgive because I would have a couple of more circumstances in the near future that would require me to again choose forgiveness amidst betrayal.   However, this time I would not have to walk that journey of forgiveness alone.  I would have my amazing husband to lean on when I felt weak and wanted to hate or hold a grudge instead of forgive.

 Both of the circumstances of betrayal Joe and I went through,  involved individuals who had voiced their love and care for us.  And perhaps even more difficult was the fact that in both instances, the people who betrayed us were also people who were active members of churches and who we truly believed were followers of Christ….but still they betrayed us.

 I have to be honest with you….there were a lot of tears during those times.  There were many heated marital ‘discussions’ as we were both extremely heartbroken, and we often found ourselves taking our pain out on each other (not a good idea….not a good idea…).  In some ways, the journey of forgiveness was more difficult as a married individual because I had to battle the urge to take out my emotions on my sweet hubby.  I also had to come to terms with the fact that though Joe could provide a shoulder to lean on, he was not ‘my Healer’ and I could not expect him to understand my heart like Jesus does.

 The beautiful part of the story is that because we both chose forgiveness in these circumstances, our marriage was taken to a deeper level of intimacy.  Because we walked through those difficult times together, we are able to face daily trials with hope and confidence in the future. 

 I read the events in John 18 through very different eyes than I did when I was a 20 year old.  I find myself relating to Jesus on a more personal level.  I’ve been betrayed by those who claimed to love me.  I have chosen to forgive fellow believers who hurt me by their actions and words.

 The older I get the more beautiful the story of John 18 becomes.  You see, just like the disciples I continue to mess up in my efforts to live a life worthy of Jesus’ forgiveness.  More years of living, mean more years of falling short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

 However, just as Jesus forgave Peter even before he denied him three times, Jesus has forgiven me.  Jesus has forgiven you. 

 Colossians 3:13 (NLT)
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Choose to forgive.  As difficult as the process might be, the reward of freedom is well worth the difficult journey.