Forgiving Again

Experiencing and Expressing Forgiveness

Click. The startling sound of the tarnished doorknob twisted in its locked position like a cannon commencing a war.

The moment my date locked his bedroom door, I convinced myself it was too late for me to back out. Ignoring all the warning signs, my heart raced rapidly as he slowly moved in my direction. I felt trapped as if the walls were collapsing in on me. The war within had begun and I was losing the battle.

This was the night of my sorority’s formal, a social event filled with cocktail dresses and dancing, and as the twilight pressed on, my moral behavior was nowhere to be found. Even though I didn’t lose my virginity that night as a junior in college, Satan’s lies tricked me into believing I was now damaged goods.

Bitterness left it impossible for me to forgive this guy I barely knew. My flesh feared confessing my sin to God. Filled with regret, I felt too shameful to even receive God’s grace of forgiveness.

But the longer I avoided all areas of forgiveness, the longer I experienced pain. I desired to forgive, acknowledge my sin and accept God’s forgiveness.

Forgiving Others

I didn’t have the strength to initially face my date after the dance and forgive him. Instead, I pretended like I had forgiven him. For the next eight months, I pushed memories of that night under a rug and acted like nothing had happened between us. However, my resentment only grew stronger every time I was reminded of him.

It wasn’t until the following semester that I tasted forgiveness: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31,32).

After reading this, I realized that it was absolutely necessary for me to forgive and let go of my past, because Christ had already forgiven me. I needed to revisit my pile of dirt under the rug and stop sweeping. As a result, God prepared my heart to write a letter to my date expressing that I had forgiven him as well as asking for his forgiveness:

“. . . I forgive you and myself for what happened. . . I just want you to know that I’ve let go of that night and no longer feel guilt or shame, because of God’s mercy and grace He has on those who believe and ask for forgiveness.”

Acknowledging My Sin

Prior to forgiving my date for the sorority formal, I had been too busy noticing the speck in his eye without noticing the log in my own. I became tangled in my own pride and resentment, blaming his faults without recognizing the depth of my own need for forgiveness.

Author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Not only did I need to forgive him, but I needed to confess my sin as well: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Accepting God’s Forgiveness

Still, forgiving my date and confessing to God my responsibility was only part of the journey of experiencing the fullness of forgiveness. I still needed to accept God’s forgiveness for me.

Even though I already acknowledged that God had forgiven me, I continued to feel guilty afterward. I spent those next few months after the dance trying to make up for what I had done wrong without realizing Jesus had already made it right. It was the first time in my life I felt so unworthy and displeasing in God’s eyes for my external actions. No matter how hard I tried to overcome feelings of guilt by reading through my Bible, praying, even attending Cru’s weekly meetings, I still saw myself as broken.

I needed to learn that whether or not I felt forgiven, I was forgiven. It wasn’t until I typed my date a letter of forgiveness that I accepted this truth: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by
grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4,5).

I remember repeating this verse to myself as I completed the final sentence in the letter. Holding my breath, I clicked “send” at the bottom of the screen. Exhaling, a sense of freedom released me from months of resentment. I finally felt at peace knowing I had experienced the fullness of forgiveness. I no longer
saw myself as damaged goods, but instead as someone who had been redeemed and rescued out of eight months of darkness. Confessing to God my attitude and bitter heart, I found myself reciting from the Lord’s Prayer, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15).

Almost two years have passed since I wrote him the letter. During that time, I completed my senior year of college and started a new chapter in my life. Eight months after graduating, I decided to return back to my alma mater for a weekend trip.

Sitting inside a Chinese restaurant, it was my first night back in my college town, and I couldn’t have been happier. But as soon as I glanced up from my phone, I saw a familiar face from the formal walking through the doors of the restaurant.

Out of all the 35,000 students I had to see while visiting campus, it had to be him? Painful memories corrupted my thoughts immediately. Fear, bitterness, anger and shame filled my emotions yet again. At that moment, my forgiveness toward my date felt foreign to me. Even though God’s forgiveness is permanent, I knew I needed to revisit the process and power of forgiveness all over again.  

 

Venture: Campus Ministry

For the past 13 years, Rob Seiffert has returned to his alma mater once a week to hang out with college students.

Employed by an agency primarily in film production and web design, Rob volunteers at Bowling Green State University with Cru. “Volunteering for Cru gives me the opportunity to still have an impact on the university on a regular basis by designing things such as web layout, videos, posters, T-shirts and fliers,” Rob says. “I have also helped lead worship for Cru in the past.”

Essentially, Rob shapes the firstimpression visuals of what Cru looks like when students walk through the doors.

“I do design stuff every day, and that’s something I feel like I have an expertise in,” Rob asserts. “During the seasons in my life when I have extra capacity to use it [with Cru], it is very rewarding.”

Rob lives in Bowling Green, Ohio, with his wife and two children, with a third one on the way.

“The university is a huge part of our little town,” Rob says. “I didn’t just want to be that Christian guy who did Cru in college and say, ‘Oh, those were the days,’ but instead have Cru still be a part of my life and have my kids see it too.”

The greatest impact for Rob as a volunteer hasn’t been from his graphic design skills, but from the feedback students give him about his relationship with his wife and kids.

“I remember when I was a student, I loved seeing the staff marriages and the relationships they had with one another and the way they raised their kids,” Rob
says. “Being able to have, hopefully, what students can see as a Christ-centered relationship and solid family life has been one of the biggest areas of impact as a volunteer.  

Sibling “Tripp”

Day 1: Smallville

IMG_2688Reaching the peak of the hilly two-lane road, my brother and I immediately recognized the cherry barn, silver silo and butterscotch yellow farmhouse in the distance. As if seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time, I squealed like a little girl.

It is here at 839 248th Street where the iconic Kent Farm from the TV series, Smallville, was filmed.

I was 10 years old when Smallville’s pilot episode first aired on the WB, which is now the CW. Ten seasons later, my brother and I have witnessed Clark Kent go from struggling as an outcasted teenager to putting on the classic crimson cape as Superman.

And here we were, standing in awe of something as simple as a barn.

This was the first of many Smallville stops for our Vancouver vacation. Next we visited the Talon in downtown Smallville, Smallville High School, Smallville Medical Center, Luthorcorp, Watch Tower, Queen Tower, Lex Luthor’s Mansion and the Daily Planet (the Newspaper where Clark and Lois Lane work as reporters. Can you say dream job?)

Day 2: Once Upon A Time

IMG_2881What’s a Vancouver vacation without visiting the place where all fairytale characters are lost in a land without magic as a result of the Dark Curse? Yes, my brother and I visited the one and only Storybrooke from the TV series Once Upon a Time.

Walking along Moncton Street, we became enchanted by this quaint little town. It was if we had been transformed into fairytale characters, writing our roles in the script, my brother as Jafar (his favorite villain), and me as Mary Poppins (I would have preferred Jasmine, but then again Rapunzel was casted as an African-American, so a girl can dream.)

Spiritual Bruises

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Gasps filled the third floor of Clark Hall. All eyes on me, the choreographer.

And yet, Michael Bublé’s “Can’t Buy Me Love” continued to play through the sound system.

It was the evening of my department’s annual dance auditions. Halfway through demonstrating the jazz routine I somehow slipped, my skin smacking against the floor. I could feel bruises forming around my outer thigh.

Pushing past the pain, I immediately returned to my feet and finished the dance.

Over time, I recognized that my courage to physically stand up after a fall is not the same when I fall down spiritually. When I find myself stuck in familiar patterns of sin, it often seems easier to just stay down.

Yet Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I need to be reminded that walking spiritually is not about relying on my own physical strength to pick me up; it’s relying on God’s strength to help me up during difficult times.

God’s never going to lose His grip on me.

My “13 Going on 30″ Moment

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thriller_trousers_redIt’s close to miiiiiidnight and something happened right there on the floor

Under the mooOOOooonlight the dance came on that almost no one knew

Except for meeeeee so the dance floor was cleared so I could shake it.

All eyes on meeeeeeeee as people looked to me for the dance moves.

I’m in the groove.

‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night!

Last Saturday night, I had my very own “13 Going on 30″ moment on the dance floor at Logan and Shannon’s wedding reception. “Thriller” came on and I instantly channeled my inner Michael Jackson. There I was, with my imaginary moonwalking shoes, white socks and red leather jacket. I had found my happy place, dancing in my own little bubble.

But then I noticed a few people behind me started joining in on the iconic Thriller moves. Next thing I knew, the entire dance floor was following my lead in perfect unison. Say what? “Keep going,” they said. So then I thought to myself, “What would Michael do?”

Keep dancing!

Here’s the clip from 13 Going on 30:

Here’s the Thriller Dance by the King of Pop:

Why students lose their faith in college

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A growing trend reveals that college freshmen aren’t just preparing a goodbye speech to their families, but to their faith as well.

Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic, “[Freshmen] leave their church, the community incentives to attend it, and the watchful eye of parents who get angry or make them feel guilty when they don’t go to services or stray in their faith. Suddenly they’re surrounded by dorm mates of different faiths or no faith at all.”

However, because I attended a university in the heart of the Bible Belt, it came as no surprise to see many college students dressed in their Sunday best for church. But what did come as a shock to me was how these church attenders behaved the remaining six days of the week.

Attending church doesn’t make one a Christian, and yet, this is a lie many college students believe.

Even as someone who grew up in a Christian family, I struggled too with living out my faith instead of saving it for Sundays. Certain barriers pushed me away from experiencing the fullness of my relationship with Jesus. The majority of my first semester revolved around sorority life, school, dance and Alabama football. I didn’t get plugged in a campus ministry because I would make up excuses. I was becoming a part of the growing trend of saying goodbye to my faith.

Who knew I would need a spiritual survival kit in addition to my freshman survival kit?

It wasn’t until the spring of my sophomore year that I settled down and became invested with Bama Cru, Cru’s campus ministry at Alabama.

At Bama Cru, staff member Jeff Norris is “convinced that the greatest need that incoming college freshmen have is to explore and develop the spiritual area of their life.”

“One of the best ways to do this is in the context of community,” Jeff said. “Often times, freshmen are curious about faith and want to develop their spiritual life, but they don’t know where to start or who to start with.”

How not to lose your faith in college

Pursuing a relationship with Jesus and living out one’s faith seemed to be a thing of the past as I looked around at the brokenness on campus. Most students don’t come into college thinking they’ll lose their faith. But then to-do lists pile up, and it becomes a backburner. However, I found that my faith actually strengthened during college once I became more intentional about my activities.

These are a couple of things I found helpful:

1. Get Plugged Into a Ministry
Whatever your theological background, get plugged in with a group of solid believers who love God and love people. I chose to become involved with Bama Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ’s chapter at Alabama. Surrounding myself with a community of believers, I created relationships and gained a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. It wasn’t until college when I realized Christianity was not just a certain religion, but also a relationship with Jesus.

2. Take On a Leadership Role
Are you passionate about your faith? Seek after a leadership role on campus. I became my sorority’s chaplain and spread the love of Jesus Christ among my Gamma Phi Beta sisters. Some of my friends from Bama Cru led a six-week video series from Matt Chandler on dating, relationships and sex based off of the book of Song of Songs in the Bible. Open to anyone, the series was held at different sorority houses each week. In addition, my sorority collaborated with another sorority for a Bible study on Marian Jordan’s book, “Radiance.”

3. Attend a Summer Project
The summer before my senior year in college, I went on Greek Summit, a summer project led by Cru staff in Destin, Fla. There, I met over 100 college students from across the nation. The purpose of the mission trip was to learn how live out one’s faith and how to become an influence in your sorority or fraternity. It was probably the best two weeks of my college career. I learned a great deal about the Gospel and what it looks like to share one’s faith with your sorority sisters.

4. Make it a Priority
Reading the Bible and attending church is what “Culture Christianity” tells society is the right way to practice Christianity. I’ve discovered it’s a daily walk and a personal relationship. When I wake up, I do my best to make it a priority to spend time with God, not in a routine manner or because it’s my duty as a Christian, but because God is my reason for living. It’s almost like brushing your teeth. Do you brush your teeth because it’s a part of your routine, or do you do it so that your teeth won’t rot away?

With enough passion and perseverance, it is possible to live out your faith into your college experience.

  • Do you know someone in college with this similar experience?
  • Are you in college struggling or thriving?
  • What tips would you add?

Original Publication on cru.org

A new Christian from Sweden bravely shares her faith

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Growing up in Sweden, Malin Sjöbäck had never heard a single Bible verse or gone to church. It wasn’t until she attended Athletes in Action’s annual winter conference where she learned about having a personal relationship with Jesus.

“I went home from the trip, and that week, I prayed and received Christ,” Malin says. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Just a year later, Malin graduated from Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky. Her summer plans consisted of traveling to southeast Africa for a soccer tour with Athletes in Action, Cru’s ministry to athletes.

Part sports camp and part mission trip, Malin had the opportunity to blend her passion for soccer and her faith while experiencing another culture, and telling others about Jesus Christ.

Scared stiff, Malin began to publicly unfold her story for the first time in front of the youthful crowd in Swaziland, tightly tucking away her nerves.

It was there that she found her purpose in life: to tell her story so that others may be encouraged by what God has done and is still doing in her life.

“It didn’t matter how nervous I was sharing my story that night for the first time in front of a large group, because it was for God’s kingdom,” Malin says. “I feel like God has called me to show others what God has done with me and my life.”

Original Publication: cru.org