Choosing Forgiveness

Jen, a student at Columbia University—New York, shares how her ideas of prayer and the gospel were transformed after hearing Carolyn Carney, assistant regional director, speak on passion for prayer. In her own words:

“After returning to campus from tending to my father’s death in my home state, I was blown away at God’s directness in soothing my wounds through the words of the speaker at InterVarsity’s large group meeting. The message coupled the ideas of how God will not abandon us with the truth that he will come to us and be in us. Prayer is more than a motion to go through as a follower of Christ; it is more even than communicating with God. It is about rejoicing in his presence within us, and the fact that he comes to us when we feel abandoned by all we love.

“During a weekend chapter retreat, I was dealing with issues arising from grieving for my father, the man who loved me, knew me best, and gave me his faith and life. An unforeseen consequence of my intense love for my dad was anger that my parents had divorced. My protection of dad had developed into a thing of death—unforgiveness.

“On Saturday morning I talked with Carolyn about the significance of forgiving our parents and how I could forgive when everything within me resisted it. As we talked, she spoke with the care, gentleness, and precision that such a sensitive and important issue as forgiveness requires. She pointed out that many Christians see forgiveness as a negative requirement of Christianity, when really, it is one of the most positive opportunities Jesus gives us to follow him. It is not merely demanding and a heavy duty. Rather, forgiveness is a richly rewarding movement toward God.

“With that gentle nudge, in my time of prayer the following morning, the Holy Spirit compelled me to forgive my parents then and there. I could not tolerate even the notion or a moment of being separated from my heavenly Father or my parents by the division and embitterment unforgiveness brings.

“At brunch I let Carolyn know that I had forgiven my parents. She celebrated with me and I felt so accompanied and cared for in this triumph.

“Through my encounters with Carolyn, I learned how to use prayer as an expression of faith. When I talk with God, I am professing that I trust in his direction. Prayer is a response to Christ coming to us, and a commitment to obedience out of love for him. I continue to rely daily and heavily upon my prayers in order to respond to the Holy Spirit, who fills me.”

Jen is currently serving the InterVarsity chapter as a small group leader and involved in hospitality and outreach to new students.

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