Updated: Dec 27, 2021
My story starts the summer after my sophomore year in high school. I was 15 years old. It was a Saturday evening, late in the day. I was home bored out of my gourd. . . until I heard a knock at the door. Like any normal teenager, I let my mom answer it.
“Randy, Rod’s at the door!”
“Rod?” I thought, “What’s he doing here so late in the day?”
“Yah, the guys from the neighborhood wanted to know if you wanted to go to the ‘Haunted House’ with us .”
I looked past Rod standing in the door and saw a pickup truck parked at the road. It was filled with a number of the guys from the neighborhood. A few were sitting in the cab in the front while the others were packed in the box in the back.
You are probably thinking isn’t it illegal to ride in the back of a pickup truck? Not back in those days it wasn’t. But back to my story! Now, these weren’t the usual group of guys that Rod and I hung out with so I was feeling a little uneasy about all this. But Rod and I were good friends and I trusted him.
I asked my mom to see if it was ok and she told me not to stay out to late. So Rod and I raced out to the pickup and climbed into the back with the rest. The truck sped off down the road, made a right hand turn down main street and headed out of town. We made a left hand turn onto a main road that headed out into the country. By the time we made a right hand turn down a gravel road toward the haunted house, it was getting quite dark and creepy.
The Haunted House
We were about 4 miles out of town when the truck slowed down and made a righthand turn up a long 2 track driveway toward an old 2 story abandoned farmhouse. The yard was littered with trash and junk and was overgrown with weeds, trees, and shrubs. The house had siding falling off, windows broken out, and the roof was in disrepair.
We parked the truck at the back door and everyone climbed out and gathered around it. Now I was in such a hurry to leave my house that I didn’t think about bringing a flashlight. But, one of the guys who had one slowly opened the back door. “Click-Eeeeeeeeeek”.
It was dark inside but the flashlight helped illuminate our way. There was garbage and broken glass all over the floor. Cobwebs hung everywhere. The countertops had a thick layer of dust and grime. Windows were broken out and the cupboard doors were falling off, barely hanging on by their hinges. The house was musty and moldy with a pungent odor in the air. You could hear the wind howl through the old house. (Oooooooo!) It definitely seemed haunted.
We slowly made our way into the living room when. . .
“WHAT’S THAT?” someone screamed.
“What’s what?” I thought and everyone started racing to the back door. Because I didn’t have a flashlight, I had to follow behind everyone else who did. I was the last one outside and the truck was already heading down the driveway and everyone was running and jumping in the back. I was racing as fast as I could trying to catch up but just couldn’t seem to. By the time the truck got to the end of the driveway, it made a right and sped off into the night.
I slowly jogged to a stop when I came to the end of the driveway and called out into the dark, “Anyone there?”. Nope! Nothing but silence!! I was the only one who hadn’t made it. I stood there alone in the dark as I watched the taillights of the truck get smaller and smaller as it headed farther and farther down the dark dusty road. I thought to myself, “Was this a coincidence OR not!”
Coincidence, or Not?
Suddenly, the brake lights came on and the truck made a u-turn and headed back in my direction. “Sweet, my good friend Rod must have told them I didn’t make it and they’re coming back to get me”. I waited patiently as I watched the headlights get bigger and bigger the closer and closer the truck got. The truck slowed down and pulled up right in front of me. I started to walk over to climb in. As I reached out to grab the bed of the truck to pull myself up. . . the driver floored it, spinning it’s tires, spraying gravel and dust(cough) all over me. The guys in the back were pointing and laughing “You idiot” as they sped off in the other direction.
I get it. This was no a coincidence. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. This was a game they were playing and I was a part of their game plan. My good friend Rod, whom I had trusted, had set me up to be the brunt of this groups fun? I don’t think I have to tell you how disappointed and discouraged I was.
As I stood there and watched the tail lights get smaller and smaller as the truck drove farther and farther down the road in the opposite direction, another thought came to me. “I’m only 4 miles from town. I’m an athlete, I run track. I wasn’t sure how much longer they were going to play this cat and mouse game, but I sure didn’t want to stick around all night to find out. I decided I’d run home. I started running down the dark dusty road toward town in the same direction as the pickup.
As I ran, I saw the brake lights come on and the truck made another u-turn and started back in my direction. Before it got close enough to see me, I jumped into the ditch and hid in the tall grass. Guess what happened? The truck zoomed right on by. As soon as the coast was clear, I jumped out of the ditch and kept running toward town. Every time I saw headlights, I’d jump into the ditch or tall grass to hide. I made it all the way to town without being spotted.
By the time I stepped into my front yard, I was dripping with sweat and exhausted. When I walked inside the house, my mom took one look at me and said (shocked) “Wha-what in the world happened to you”? Unlike a normal teenager, I told her the whole story. Secretly, I think she was just a little proud of the fact that I had beaten them at their own game.
I made some popcorn and sat down in an easy chair to watch some tv and relax when there was another (knock, knock, knock) knock at the front door. I let my mom answer it. My mom came back a few minutes later and said that it was the guys from the neighborhood.
They asked if I was home. She said that she started her own little game by saying “I thought he was with you”? She said they looked a little anxious when they left so I wrote a note and taped it to the front door letting them know that I was home safe and sound, just incase they came back later.
I caught up with Rod the next day. He said that they had about half the town out looking for me until around 2:30 in the morning when they found the note on the front door. Come to find out, they had played the same prank on Rod just before they stopped at my house. I forgave Rod and the Haunted House story is one of my many high school memories.
What Did I Learn?
You know, I learned something that night. People will do things to you; sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes in fun. I had a choice to make. I could either choose to get bitter or I could choose to get better. I could choose to get even or I could choose to FORGIVE.
I could have called their parents or the police and reported what the had done to me. But, I realized they weren’t trying to be malicious but only trying to have some fun, unfortunately at my expense. I decided to choose to get better and to FORGIVE.
The Principle of Release
What does the bible say when someone wrongs you. I love this verse from John 20: 22-23. It tells us to “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
What God is saying here is that when you choose to forgive someone who has wronged you, you actually release those sins. This is powerful principal. It’s called the ‘Principal of Release’.
Un-forgiveness is Like Drinking Poison
But here’s the catch, God also says that if you choose not to forgive someone who has wronged you, you retain those sins. Someone once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
Let me give you an example: Let’s say a family member said something that hurt your feelings. You know, that really made you mad. You are ticked! You're livid! You're steamed! You can’t believe what they said or did that hurt you so much. You keep dwelling on it over and over in your mind. You can’t sleep at night because of what they said. You're furious. You're so stinking mad right now, you could spit.
Now, who is your unforgiveness hurting? You or your family member? They probably don’t even realize that you're upset. When you don’t forgive, you actually retain the venomous poison of that person’s sin. In other words, choosing unforgiveness can be deadly.
That’s why Jesus said at the beginning of that verse that we need to “Receive the the Holy Spirit.” Why? Because forgiveness can be hard. We can’t do it under our own human strength. We need the Holy Spirit’s power, grace, truth & mercy to forgive. Ephesians 6:10 says “Be strong in the Lord and in His might power.”
Sins of Abuse
I believe, this is why sins of abuse are being passed on from generation to generation these days. I’m talking about domestic, physical, mental, and sexual abuse. In most cases, the person who was abused will say something like this “I could never forgive them for what they did to me!” I can understand why someone might feel that way but do you know what they are doing by saying that? They are retaining the poison of the sin of abuse. Do you know that nearly 100% of all child abusers - were abused themselves as children. By not forgiving, they have retained the sin of abuse.
Our Example for Forgiveness
There was this guy who loved people and was always trying to be a blessing to others. Those he loved though - bullied him, ridiculed him and made fun of him. They spit on him. They blindfolded him and would punch him in the face and would ask him to guess who did it. They humiliated him by stripping him of his clothes. They tied his hands and then whipped his back and legs. They drove nails through his wrists and feet and nailed him to a cross.
Our sins put him there. Yours! Mine! Jesus could have said “There is absolutely no way that I could ever forgive you for what you did to me”. But he didn’t. Instead, he said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus is our example for forgiveness. If He could forgive me for all the sins I’ve done and forgive you for all the sins you’ve committed, then why can’t we forgive someone who has sinned against us.
Forgive and Live
Listen, if someone has hurt you or abused you in any way, big or small, I want to strongly encourage you to choose to forgive through the power of the Holy Spirit to release those sins and the toxins they hold. People are going through life with the toxic memory of unfinished business deep in their souls. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior and let them off the hook. The bible says God WILL deal with them. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from poisoning your life.