I grew up in the church. 

My early memories are filled with private school and summer camp, Pathfinders and Adventurers, Sabbath hours, and a serious martyr complex by the time I reached Junior High. 

I was living for God, and as a kid that meant doing a lot of things that made my public school friends raise their eyebrows. 

I now know that many of my peers viewed me as a “goody-two-shoes” during my school years. But despite being baptized early and exposed to every Adventist doctrine available, I didn’t feel close to Jesus. 

I’ve since learned that relationships tried by fire are those that end up forged in strength. 

When my most important earthly relationships were under fire, the furnace seemed to burn my relationship with Jesus too. 

The most difficult road to walk as a Christian is the road of forgiveness. The world says to “forgive and forget.” The Bible says to forgive “seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22). 

Our heart says to love. Our head says to hate. The Bible says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). 


It’s been over a decade now and I can recall that day as if it was hours ago. 

I rocked and sobbed on the phone with my mom, thinking that tried-and-true promise from Phil. 4:13 was a lie. Absurd. Whoever wrote that (the apostle Paul) obviously never tried to forgive the unforgivable—or forget the unforgettable.

I retreated into a shell of the once-happy Christian that knew her Redeemer, and questioned everything I’d ever known about God. 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Suddenly God’s plan was meant for the person I had been, not who I had become

This new person was angry. 

After weeks of suspicions, my world exploded one night when I found out my husband had fallen in love with my best friend. Despite all my suspicions, I was shocked. Most of all, I was hurt and sad. I felt betrayed in the deepest way possible—betrayed by him and betrayed by her. 

Wayne* and Joy were my two best friends in the world… and in a moment I had lost them both. 

For Forgiveness’ Sakes

Looking back, I think I decided to fight for our marriage because at the moment I just wanted to fight. It wasn’t about “seventy times seven” and it wasn’t about being a good Christian. 

The war had come to my front door and I wasn’t going down gently. At the very least, I wasn’t going at it alone

As Wayne and I began to heal the rupture in our marriage, another problem raised its head out of the ashes. I couldn’t be angry at him, because I forgave him—right? 


As Christians we’re told to forgive, but we aren’t told how.

As children we’re told to apologize when we hurt someone or do something wrong. We’re told to forgive people if or when they hurt us. Through stories of missionaries and early Christian martyrs, we’re told to forgive even if it kills us. We’re even told to forget

What I did with Wayne, and what I realized sometime later I did with Joy, was fake it. 

You’ve heard the saying “fake it ‘til you make it.” I was a professional faker by the time I realized I’d never forgiven at all. 

I didn’t know how to forgive. I just knew I had to, so I did—or thought I did. 

As my husband and I began the arduous work of mending what was broken in our marriage, our love gradually rekindled. The desert wasteland that had become our marriage was being watered…slowly, carefully. Pockets of joy sprang up where there had been only pain. We made baby steps in recovery, watering earth with drops of tears and sweat from grit and hard work.

We were many months into this healing process when one mirage after another kept evaporating. As we kindled new life in our little corner of the desert, a mirage of lies was fooling us both. 

White hot anger still burned inside me. The anger—and what I finally recognized as hatred—for Joy, had changed me into something ugly. 

Unforgiveness is a poison you drink hoping someone else will die.

As I withheld forgiveness for Joy, the heart of my marriage was poisoned more deeply than adultery, broken vows, or any kind of deceit could have done. 

My church and family began to see a change in me. 

I said I forgave and patted myself on the back for that forgiveness. Yet all the while a hatred burned inside me like an infection, moving through my whole body and strangling out the life. 

Seeking Wise Counsel

It can be very difficult to navigate a wasteland like unforgiveness on your own. Even more so to find your way out of the wasteland with the same people that led you into that wilderness in the first place! Sometimes, when you’re lost in the desert, you need to look to someone new—someone who carries the map you need. 

Eventually I reached out to a mentor from childhood, someone I hadn’t seen in years, and someone completely disconnected from my family and the situation. 

She listened to every tearful word. She prayed with me not as a mentor, but as a sister-in-Christ. She related not as a Christian, but as a sinner. 

Then she asked me if I was willing to reconcile. Reconcile? I can’t even forgive! I thought. 

She laughed an airy laugh. “I’m going to send you an email.” 

The Peacemaker

Growing up in the church I had learned Bible stories and memorized scriptures. I learned about forgiving my enemies, but I never learned how to forgive my friends. 

When my mentor emailed me, she sent me the name of a book: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. It’s a book I had picked up before. I had tried to read it, but it didn’t speak to me in the least. This time when I picked it up, page after page was water for my weary soul in the desert. 

God spoke to me on every page, and through biblical conflict resolution, I learned how to forgive the unforgivable. 

When I admitted I was a peace-faker, God turned me into a peacemaker. He helped me restore not one, but two covenant friendships. 

He was my husband, but our marriage was in a deep valley. 

She was my best friend, but our relationship was built on a bedrock of deceit. 

When I let go of the anger and truly forgave, I was able to climb mountains with these two. 

While I can never truly forget, I am now able to keep the four promises of forgiveness: 

  1. I will not dwell on this incident. 
  2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you. 
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident. 
  4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.**

Will I always remember that awful night? As long as I’m here on earth I will. You will remember the worst days of your life as well. To be honest, I hope we never forget. It’s not until we stare down the impossible that we can truly see how God has done good work in our lives. 

If you are lost in the desert wasteland of dead relationships—of whatever type—you can reclaim that land for a bountiful harvest. Through your testimony, God may be watering a world of thirsty soil with an experience only you can share. 

*names have been changed