Forgiveness, My Mountainous Obstacle

find your worth

I spent a month with a lump in my throat— and a new kind of pain in my heart. I don’t remember taking a breath in those days I spent in that courtroom. My eyes burned and my hands shook as I soaked in the pieces to the broken puzzle from our story . . . day after day after day—every one with a new topic—a different expert explaining what they had spent nineteen months researching and analyzing.

I sometimes wondered if anyone else had pushed the same button I had—the one where you were put into some sort of trance resembling no emotion—but you were really dying inside.

Each day brought different knowledge—a new challenge in forgiveness of the three people whose crossroads collided that night. Every day was like someone had pushed the reset button on my remote—like the hope I had received in the past vanished into thin air. I always pictured my road to forgive as an uphill climb. I thought for sure that each step I took would be supported by the next step. 

That month I learned that hope and empathy are very fluid. The more I listened about the bad decisions made that night, the more anger I felt towards all of them. The more anger I felt towards the three of them—the more I fought the urge to hate myself and question my worth. Every word spoken about the affair pierced me like a knife—a blatant attack on my worthiness of being enough as a wife. Every fact proven about the gun, reopened the wounds it had caused in my own heart. Every word Kandi said on that stand—beckoned me to hate.

Every ounce of self worth I had tried to find for a year and half was lost as I lived it all again.  The battle of hope and despair became a cycle I ran over and over and over each day. The search for empathy for each of their circumstances—many days— seized from my heart as I tried to force myself to not feel my own pain. I learned a lot about the power of the mind as I purposefully pretended to be in autopilot and not feel—but felt every word—and the more I didn’t allow myself to feel  . . . the less empathy I saw for them.

A trial I knew would not change anything from the past became an emotional internal battle of darkness and light. The temptation to hate had never been stronger. The battle to conceal my pain was overwhelming . . . and the hours my body went home to try to sleep—my mind did not follow. The trance took over my body—autopilot became me. Shawn and I didn’t talk much that month, some days hardly at all. I saw many meals brought in, I received many hugs—but that month, I did not feel the love that was all around me.

 For every step we take into the light, there may be nine steps backwards trying to take us back into the darkness. Each day we will go in a different direction. Some days we will jump forward, others we will fall back.The learning experiences and opportunities for growth in our lives are not going to be concrete—they will be fluid. For every step we take into the light, there may be nine steps backwards trying to take us back into the darkness. Each day we will go in a different direction. Some days we will jump forward, others we will fall back.

Forgiveness, hope, charity, and empathy—all virtues we are trying to perfect—will flow in this same manner. Perfect mastering of any virtue will not come in this life. They will constantly be at battle with the opposition. Our hearts may be full with empathy and love for a foe one day—and the next day we may remember the pain they have caused. Some days we may fail in our battle to perfect our virtues—but we can start again the next. I learned a lot about this cycle of virtuous autopilot . . . the dance of despair and defeat being replaced with feelings of peace and hope.

I began to see that for me, forgiveness and hope were not an uphill climb—but a mountainous obstacle. And some days I did not win. Some moments I hit valleys; others I saw stars. Some moments I could see myself—and others all I could see was defeat.

We each hold inside of us a power of self—who we perceive ourselves to be.

During, and even before the trial, I allowed just about anyone to determine my vision of my self.  I did not know I could be the keeper of this power.

Some days—when I learned different facts about the case—I willingly handed over my sense of self to the perpetrator of the crime. When they spoke about the affair—I didn’t just listen to the facts—I internalized them and focused on what I did wrong. I shifted my power of self over to Emmett or Kandi. (Because they did this—I must be this.) When I learned a fact about Rob’s actions, I internalized his decisions and shifted my power of self over to him.

I allowed the facts to bring me to many of my own crossroads—where I stood waiting for their approval . . . that I was enough.

I listened every day for one of them to change the story—I secretly waited to hear the part when I was enough for any of them.  But guess what?—nobody did.

The battle to hate had little to do with anyone in that room, or with Emmett. The difference between a good day, and a bad day in court had little to do with the facts that were displayed . . . and everything to do with the power of self I could see.

When the facts were presented I had two opportunities—two different outcomes. One was to hold my power in my mind and allow myself to feel the effect of that decision—but not allow my power to be given to that person. The other opportunity, I often times allowed, when a fact was presented—I gave away the power of my sense of self, and imaginarily handed it to the person who caused the pain.

And that is what made the difference between a dark day, and a light one. The information was not different—but the way I allowed it to affect me was drastically not the same.  They would have to own their roles in the story—not me. Their bad decisions could only break me . . . if I gave them my power. Regardless of who I was, or wasn’t, those three had made their own choices—and the days I could remember that . . . I stood tall.

The only way I could be broken was if I chose to let the world destroy me—if I gave away my power to anyone but myself. The click of that gun was powerful. These horrible decisions, made by three people, were impactful in my life—they had changed the course of the journey I thought I would live . . . but they didn’t break me. The only way I could be broken was if I chose to let the world destroy me—if I gave away my power to anyone but myself.  

The world is going to try to break us—trials are never going to end. Even when the murder trial was over, its power has never ceased to try to destroy who I viewed myself to be. Truth is—the world is never going to want us to see ourselves, because the minute we do—we hold in our mind the power to be everything we were created to be.

It is not the trials in life that define who we will become—it is our reactions to them.

The days I walked into that courtroom in darkness and despair—I felt it run through me. I saw and heard with a broken heart. I hated and I despised. I was numb to anything uplifting me, and I was on an emotional journey of heartache. But those days I walked into that courtroom willing to hear, see, and not feel the pain—but feel the spirit—those were the days I was given the miracles I needed to remember who I was. I was not a broken widow who was going to be plowed out of her own life. I was a strong daughter of God who was being given a new way to view myself—regardless of what others saw in me . . . or failed to see. 

The past has been cracked, the pain has been deep . . . but I am not broken. Because of Him . . . even I . . . the widow to a man who was gun downed in a Walgreens parking lot for stepping out on the promises he had made to me—to protect me, and adore me, and hold true to our marriage—even I could have a life filled with dreams. Even I could find more reasons to smile, and see myself for who I really am.

But I can promise you this: if we pray for the ability to see ourselves as God sees us, especially in the moments when we feel broken and weak, we will be blessed with a different view. We will be given the ability to see our own strength and the gifts we have been given. We will be able to view ourselves as an eternal being, and not just a temporary body. We will be able to find our ability to one day be made whole from anything in our past that has shaken us.Life is going to be a roller coaster of dark days and light days. But I can promise you this: if we pray for the ability to see ourselves as God sees us—even the moments when we feel broken and weak—let me rephrase that . . . especially in the moments when we feel broken and weak—we will be blessed with a different view. We will be given the ability to see our own strength and the gifts we have been given. We will be able to view ourselves as an eternal being, and not just a temporary body. We will be able to find our ability to one day be made whole from anything in our past that has shaken us.

Somedays autopilot may take the reins so you can stay safe—but don’t give anyone else your power. See, hear . . . but only FEEL the truth. Sometimes truths are hard to feel. Sometimes facing the truths that cracked you—breaks you all over again, but it is truth that puts together the broken puzzle pieces of the past, and that sets you free from the dark roads you have walked. And it is truth that brings you to the knowledge that you are enough.

Don’t let others destroy you. Be you. Find strength in your story—even the parts that want to take your power away and leave you with nothing left. Even if the jury of life is sitting in front of you . . . staring—and you are wondering if there is anything left for them to see—God still sees it all. He feels the silent tears you are crying inside. He hears the gentle whispers your heart is pleading. Maybe you feel alone from where you are standing—but He is not far away. In those moments that darkness has surrounded you, and you wonder if everyone has forgotten who you are—pray that you can remember, even if no one else does.

Sometimes the greatest miracle of all is—waiting around for someone to see your worth . . . but finding it for yourself instead.

God is not dead. He lives. He is waiting for each one of us to remember Him, to find hope not only in our stories, but in His creations. He sent His Son to die for us—that we could one day live again. So we could make it through the trials and the days our bodies go into autopilot. He knew it would be hard. He knew there would be no remote to click fast forward through the darkness and the pain—so He allowed His perfect Son to die to atone for the world.

Grace—it is the power that is inside each one of us. Because of Him  . . . the trials we spend pretending we do not feel the pain—will strengthen the view we have of ourselves. The power that lies in each one of us is greater than anyone else can see. It is a hope that only we can find; in the stories only we can live.

Believe in Him. Believe in his plan—and never stop believing in the one person he gave you to be your greatest cheerleader . . . YOU. No one else has been where you have been—the pilot of your destiny is you. Truth is—you are His greatest creation of all. And when you can see that . . . you will know He is not very far away.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How can prayer help you see yourself differently?  How can grace empower you with strength and hope?
  2. How does the “power of self” affect your ability to forgive yourself and others?
Ashlee Birk is the Author of the blog and book series entitled The Moments We Stand.  In them she tells of her personal journey of healing and seeking peace after the murder of her husband Emmett.  Through her trials she has learned the importance of a personal relationship with her Father in Heaven. She has found light in the darkest of moments—and she has found hope when she thought it was lost.  She has come to find that the grace of Christ is powerful—not only in sin—but also in forgiveness and carrying you through some of your darkest moments.

Ashlee is remarried and resides in Idaho with her husband Shawn and their blended family of six children. They work hard every day to continue their journey of peace and finding the joy in life. Ashlee believes that every day is a gift—and in each one, she has learned to stand.

The Moments We Stand

spouse murdered 11/2011

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