This past weekend, for the first time in a while, I was brought face to face with my past. This time though was different. I encountered one of the guys who took part in my assault—back in seventh grade. Angry? I could have been. Instead, Saturday night was a night of forgiveness. Instead, it was a night of letting go of the memories and the pain, forever.
Saturday, I went to the Carolina game at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, Sc. It was a fun game and I enjoyed getting to see some friends from Charleston. The game ended and I started my long walk back to my car. As I walked along, there were people everywhere. As I continued to walk down the crowded street, I heard a familiar voice up ahead. It was the guy. Now, I had seen this guy since the incident. In fact, last year at a wedding I was at, he came up and gave me a huge bear hug. He made it seem like we had been best friends, when in reality, all I wanted to do was to beat the crap out of him for what he had done to me.
Confused at why in a crowd of 80,000, I found this guy, I began to pray. In the last year and a half of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, He has taught me to be sensitive to the callings and pushing of the Spirit. God had done incredible things, through simple, ordinary interactions. Why did I run into this guy? Did God want me to speak truth and love to him? So feeling this may be true, I inched my way through the crowd, until I was walking right beside of him. I didn’t know what was to come next, but I trusted The Lord, that this was an opportunity—an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
Well, I continued walking beside him, not knowing what to say or do. Finally, he recognized me. “Joe Hulsey!” He said. I could see the shock forming on his face. What was worse was that he was drunk. We began to walk and talk, him doing most of the talking, spewing half understandable sentences from his mouth. I could have really taken advantage of this guy. What he had taken part in: wrecked my life, confidence, and my mind for so many years. What he had done had brought me great anger and major depression, feelings of worthless and hating God because this had occurred in the church. But when Jesus came into my life and forgave me of all my sins, I could not continue to hold this against this guy. Something I said I would never do, I did. I forgave. What these guys meant for evil, God meant it for good. And God has used it.
I guess the alcohol was starting to wear off because this guy’s tone changed. He went from cheery and silly to regretful. He began to talk about his time at college and how it had been hard. As each sentence left his mouth, my heart began to break for this guy. I began to see where a life of popularity, drugs, alcohol, fraternities and sexual relations with girls, had destroyed his life. A guy who I had looked up to in middle and high school, had enjoyed all the pleasures of this world, and come away broken and unfulfilled. He talked about how his goal was to find a job where he would make a lot of money. He was hopeless but unwilling to change. He was broken, but he would not leave the world and all its pleasures. It was all he knew.
We continued walking, getting nearer and nearer time to part ways. Figuratively, our lives were going complete opposite directions. A life that I coveted when I was younger, looked awfully broken and skewed now to me. I thanked God for the life He had given me. And then I began to share my past brokenness with this guy, pouring out to him, my past hopelessness. I shared with him what God had done for me and all He had brought me through and now the life He had given me. I never mentioned what the guy had done to me in seventh grade, not wanting to shame him. I don’t know if he knows or remembers what happened, but maybe God will give me the opportunity to forgive him in person one day. I got his number before we parted ways, feeling God wanted me to continue to share with this guy, the love of Jesus Christ.
Maybe, like me, God is wanting you to express the grace and forgiveness of Christ, to someone who has hurt you. Do not fear encountering this person but instead offer up freely your forgiveness and explain to them how Christ forgave you. Trust The Lord that He might use you to show His grace and forgiveness, in a way that they may never have experienced.
Have a blessed night,