Snowboarding on Christmas sounds fabulous until realizing you’re alone—married and alone—family minutes away and alone. Divorce, my divorce, isn’t something I often write about or discuss, but this Christmas season I have encountered many hurting people and am starkly reminded of the raw pain many of you are experiencing and the hope Jesus ushered in.

Married straight out of college at the age of 22, my life was a fairytale. I had walked with God since my youth and had lived, as much as a sinner can, by his ways enjoying his blessings. Christianese was my native tongue, and I walked the straight and narrow, avoiding the classic rebellious antics of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. What I didn’t avoid were the less obvious, arguably more destructive sins: pride, envy, and entitlement.

Somehow I had the idea that God’s commands were a bilateral contract, and I was entitled to a perfect happily ever after because I upheld my part of the contract. Like any business deal gone south, frustration and anger surfaced with God in the hot seat.

As Alice found herself falling into a dreamlike world with a late rabbit, a mad hatter, and a wicked queen, I tumbled into a new world so surreal, so cruel, I couldn’t believe it was my life with my betrothed. Isolated, unprepared, and ill-equipped to endure abuse, I completely broke. Abuse bore discouragement, and defeat collapsed into deafening shame, leaving me angry with my husband and my God.

There’s a point where tears run dry and hearts grow numb. A time when questioning further reinforces defeat and should be avoided. Living in this state for too many years, I waved my white flag to God. And suddenly, stillness surrounded me. New tears—tears from a surrendered heart traced new lines on my weary face. “Lord, you want the best for me. This doesn’t seem like the best at all, but if you want me here, showing your love to this man, my husband, I need your help.” These humble words penetrated my heart and healing began. When hearts are humble, God is able to do the supernatural.

That marriage ended. But when it did, I had God’s reassurance and was eventually blessed with a second chance at marriage. But, scars fade slowly, and untended remnants of shame and unforgiveness had grown into bitterness. Years later something happened.

My husband and I had moved our family back to our hometown and were living with my parents while we started a business from nothing during one of the worst economic downturns. We had nothing, which turned out to be everything I needed for God to reshape my heart. Holding my only son, I contemplated Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s gift. Jesus traded everything heavenly for rejection, disrespect, unfairness, and ultimately a ruthless death upon a shameful cross for you and me.

Like looking back at photos of high school and realizing how insignificant hairstyles and clothes were, I suddenly realized how trite the unforgiveness I harbored was, and also how I disregarded my own faults. With my husband’s approval, I tracked down my ex-husband and sent a simple message, “I’m sorry for all the pain I caused you. Please forgive me.” The simple act of sending this message without expectations was liberating! The simple response I received back later, completely freeing.

It all started with one person and one purpose: Jesus and forgiveness. Today it can start with you. Perhaps you are experiencing difficulty with family members, co-workers, or friends. You may be maligned, the scapegoat for things you haven’t done, but you can forgive and experience freedom. The hope for these relationships is the forgiveness Jesus provides. Will you be his hands and feet and carry his forgiveness to these hurting relationships?

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