Theologians recognize the number seven in the Bible as the number of perfection, totality, completion. When God made the world, the Genesis account says it took Him seven days to do it. When Jesus spoke about Himself in John, He made seven “I AM” statements explaining His nature. John also lists seven corresponding signs of His deity. God told the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho seven times before they came down. Elisha told Naaman to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times. Seven appears throughout Revelation to represent how thorough God’s judgement will be.
There’s no spiritual significance to extrabiblical occurrences of the number seven (as I’m sure a few Christian Numerologists have discovered a time or two). But today marks a significant seven in my life.
Seven years ago today was the day I met the boy who abused me psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally for the following two years.
I went into an art museum and joined a tour group. He was in the same tour group. He seemed charming. Turns out he wasn’t.
It has been seven years since I met him, five since I left him, and I am still waiting on the Lord for a sense of closure. Finality. Completion. Totality.
It’s been seven years of restoring my soul. But I’m not the one doing the restoring, nor am I completely restored.
The words “abuse” and “abuser” carry dark connotations; ever darker as more people learn about the kinds of abuse and how pervasive and systemic they are. We make pariahs of abusive people—any form of abusive behavior categorizes the perpetrator an Unforgivable. How could a human being commit such crimes against another? Against someone they claimed to love? How can he be human?
Calling the man who crippled me a monster would be the easy thing to do.
Forgiving him is the hard part.
The boy asked for my forgiveness, which I gave. And I give it every day. Whenever the scars on my psyche crack open and bleed, whenever memories of his berating voice haunt my efforts to grow, change, learn, and try, threatening to cripple me again, choke me again, silence me again—I forgive him.
Does he know the extent of the damage he did? Was his request for forgiveness genuine repentance? Has he changed? Learned better? Will he do the same thing to someone else? I don’t know. I may never know, at least on this side of eternity.
But I know this: the radical grace that is sufficient for me is sufficient for him, too. God forgives anyone who asks, repents, and follows Him. From philanthropists to thieves, public servants to serial killers—all are unqualified for His mercy and yet all are welcome to it.
Grace isn’t fair. Thank God.
If Christ can forgive the soldiers who spat on Him and rammed spears into His side, I can forgive a boy for the damage he’s done.
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you[a] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil 1:6
What happened to me is part of that good work. The aftermath is, too. It is all part of my progressive sanctification, the renewing of my mind, that march to Zion.
What happened does not define me. Jesus does; I’m a child of the King. I am not quite to the number 7—I’m not perfect—but the Author still has some work to do on my story.
If you are recovering from a psychologically abusive relationship, trying to get out of one, or suspect you’re in one, please feel welcome to contact me if you want to talk. If you don’t want to talk to a stranger from the internet, please find someone you trust and talk through what you’re experiencing.
If you are in a physically abusive or potentially physically abusive relationship, please go to http://www.thehotline.org/ or call 1-800-799-7233 to reach the National Domestic Violence hotline.