By Pam Howe, guest blogger
“To err is human, to forgive divine.” It is an old and familiar quote, but I have no idea where is came from. What I do know is that it has proven to be true in my life.
I came alive in my faith in 1994. It was a year of trauma, loneliness, fear and shame. It was the year that I left my husband after 22 years of marriage. If ever there was a lost soul on the face of the earth, it was me in April 1994. I was married at 19 and had never lived alone. My 21- year old daughter and 19- year old son had lived in a state of chaos their entire lives as I relentlessly struggled to make a marriage work that never should have happened in the first place. Through a miracle of God, I managed to escape my marriage, but I was terrified and very alone. Regardless of how horrendous and oppressive my married life had been, it was the only life I knew. I left with absolutely no concept of my value. I had no knowledge of who I was or how I would survive. I was 41 years old, and my life was total and utter failure – or so I believed at the time.
Unbeknownst to me, I had a Savior. He knew exactly what I was going through, and He knew exactly what I needed. He picked me up from my state of trauma and gently placed me in the rich soil of St. Mary’s Parish. In a desperate attempt to make friends, I attended a New Life Retreat (similar to Life in the Spirit Seminar) in August 1994. It was there I discovered the healing power of a loving and forgiving God.
He captivated my heart, and I fell in love with Jesus. My healing had begun.
I knew I had received the gift of forgiveness from God, and I had no idea how to forgive. One day, a gentle elderly woman said to me, “Pamela, you are a lovely lady. You are joyful and kind, but when you speak of your husband, your whole body changes.” her comments affected me deeply, so I talked to the Lord about it. I said, “Jesus, I do not want to be the person this woman described. I do not want my body to speak a different language than the language of love that You placed in my heart. What do I do?” As I sat quietly before Him, I felt him say to me, “Pray for your husband.” I was shocked! The very thought of it repulsed me. I had lived in denial for over 20 years as a simple manner of survival. I had been getting professional help for recover for the abuse, and I was beginning to thaw out and realize what I had lived through. I was convinced praying for this man was impossible, but I was also convinced this was God’s will, so I was obedient. Every day I prayed through clenched teeth and with very little faith. Eventually it became easier, and my jaw loosed up somewhat.
After two years of consistent daily prayer for my ex-husband, I got a call from my son one Sunday morning. He was in emergency department of the General Hospital. He had been involved in a bar room brawl the night before, and his jaw was broken. Instantly, I said to him, “I will be right there.” He hesitated and said, “Mom, I don’t think you will want to come. Dad is here with his girlfriend.” It was the woman he had been unfaithful to me with for the last four years of our marriage. How could I possibly face him now in the presence of this woman? Fear gripped my body. My hands shook, and my stomach knotted so badly I could hardly breathe. I had to go. I had to support my son.
In the emergency department’s waiting room that day, as my eyes fell upon my ex-husband’s who I had not seen in almost three years, the strangest thing happened. A wave of peace swept through my body. I felt it flow from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. Immediately, the fear was gone, and I experienced a divine love in my heart for the father of my children. I knew this love was not from me, but it was a gift from my loving and merciful God. In an instant, I knew that I had forgiven him. At last I was free!
Seventeen years have gone by since that day. There have been times when I have been tempted to fall back into resentment, but the knowledge and the power of forgiveness has prevailed in my life. I am free to love, free to receive love and free to be the woman God created me to be.
I have experienced and I live this fundamental truth, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”