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Guilty- April 9, 2011
June 5, 2011

Dear Sam,

Many years ago I dismissed the whole religion-church thing because I had a pastor who was really mean. I tried to ask real questions about God and he threw me out of the class. I never forgave him. Recently I've realized that he will die soon and what will happen if I don't forgive him? I hate being put on the spot by these thoughts, but I guess I had better address them. Got any words of wisdom for me?


Dear Guilty,

Clearly the Holy Spirit has not abandoned you and I'm proud of you for being real. Pastors are people too, and you have no idea what was going on with him during this formative period in your life. Maybe he actually didn't have answers and was afraid. Maybe he heard your tone of voice as accusatory. Maybe teaching young people was not his gift. Who knows. But you are right to go back to that time and find some compassion for both him and for yourself. What actually happened, odd as it sounds, is that you have allowed him to exert power over you for all these years. Instead of making your own decisions about religion-church, your hurt feelings took over. Have you found that hurt feelings have influenced your other relationships as well? That's what can happen when an issue goes undealt with. That's why God insists that we forgive. When we don't, the issue remains active and confronts us until we finally take up the challenge it presents. This challenge seems to be about compassion and understanding and not letting hurt feelings define who you are and what you think. The guilt you feel is definitely a gift from God because the Holy Spirit's job is to convict us of sin so that we can finally come to grips with its destruction in our lives. I would suggest that you not contact this pastor and tell him how badly he has ruined your life. He may have no idea of how he hurt you, and it would just serve to injure him. After all these years this is your issue, although for sure his spirit will experience relief when you release him from his task of controlling you. He will die more peacefully and you will regain your ability to determine your own mind and heart. God is Blessing you. God is real and He loves you.


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