“Free to Forgive” by Johnette Cruz


Today we kick off our #FeatureFriday series. We will be sharing some amazing people with you each Friday. Enjoy!

For years I’ve unknowingly held on to things so buried that they became part of my inner being. With every year and every season that has passed, those things festered and grew so deep that all of it was bound to come spewing out. I’ve dealt with a lot of situations from my past that I’m sure many women face daily: abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, health problems, betrayal, abandonment and resentment issues….yup I can say it, I was a hot mess.

I was saved at the age of 23 and started to turn my life around, and things were looking great. I got married, God blessed us with a miracle of a son and my professional life was striving ahead; but all in the while my personal life was falling apart.

In 2011, I began working with a ministry based out of where I live and we do women’s conferences call the Finally Free Women’s Conference. I attended my first one as the “host” and to experience it myself. Our conferences are all about life transformation. We want to see women coming in one way, and leaving completely different, and let me tell you that I was no exception.

That day was the beginning of my freedom journey. I recognized the things from the past that I was holding on to, burdens that I was carrying that were never intended for me to carry. During the conference we hand out stones, and you name them-claim them, and then give them up to God to handle them. I think that day I had at least a bag of stones, all with different names! Through our gifted speaker Kim Tabor and team, God made me aware of all my past hurt that I had so eloquently hidden from everyone.

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”

I left the conference a changed person, feeling like I could take on the world and handle everything the way God wanted me to…but oh how very easy it is for Satan to crawl back in, get comfortable, make his home again and tell you different.

1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”

Fast forward to 2014. Earlier this year, I experienced a season of life where I had to face some really tough decisions head on. This specific situation was the catalyst to my breakdown. Satan knew exactly what to do, how to hurt me to the deepest part of my soul. It’s like he took my heart stabbed and stomped on it, ripped it into shreds intending it to never be repaired again. Those stones that I thought I left at the altar back in 2011 were facing me dead on, and they were no longer stones- they were huge boulders and I couldn’t get rid of them this time.

I was completely broken, utterly empty and in despair. Now that I look back on it, God NEEDED my soul to be shattered; He had to strip me down of everything so that He could reshape and mold me for Him and His purpose. For a series of months I went into intense Christian counseling to have someone guide me through this traumatic time- you see you need to dig deep, and get the ugly out so that God can fill you with things of Him. When you’re filled with hate, anger, resentment, and pride there is no room for God to fill you with His goodness. It was a process, but I finally began my new journey to freedom and healing.

One day a few months ago I had enough. I literally yelled and cried out to God, “This is it! I rebuke Satan and he will never win, I cannot live like this!” So I ran outside to a pond near my house and grabbed 4 stones- each representing something, and I chucked them as far as I could throw them. I HAD to let them go. The negative feelings were producing nothing but a hateful and angry person and my coldness was permeating everywhere I went.

Through my freedom journey, I have learned that there is POWER in letting go, there is a SUPERNATURAL POWER in forgiving. I have a close friend in our ministry who shares her story in our conferences and the one thing that has stuck with me throughout our travels is one of her sayings: “I choose what I dwell on” and oh my goodness how true is that! Is it hard to move forward and not “choose” anger over happiness? Absolutely! But if you choose to do that you will not be living the life God has promised for you! God has so much more in store for us than we will ever know, but the love, forgiveness and grace that he has given us should be given to others- we are called to do that, so why not extend that same love to the people who have hurt us the most?

Ladies- if you are dealing with some hurt in your life and you haven’t let go of it yet and decided to forgive, may I ask why? What are you afraid of? You are missing out on God’s unending love! Do I still have my bad days? Of course! Do I still have pain and hurt? Yes! BUT- I now look at it differently, the anger is gone, and instead of my past irrational decisions to act out negatively I CHOOSE to go directly to God, seek counsel and most importantly pray. One of the hardest things we women will ever have to face is to forgive- it can be done, but not alone. You must give all to God and HE will make all things new, wipe every tear, and bring light into your heart that was dead and dark.

Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

For more details on the Finally Free Women’s Conference, book, CD and Bible Study, go to http://www.finallyfreeconference.org

Johnette Cruz is a multimedia professional who has always had a love for music, worship and a talent for connecting people to Christ. Johnette is the Communications Director at Mount Pleasant Christian Church located in Greenwood Indiana and Midday Personality Radio Host for Shine.FM. She also works with Tabor Ministries and is involved in the Finally Free Women’s Conference and Stripped Free; an outreach ministry.

Connect with Johnette:
Twitter: @Cruzza
Instagram: @jcruzza