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Extending Forgiveness Releases Man From Past Baggage

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“I was very angry and very bitter.” Andre Campbell had fallen far from his Christian faith. At forty-five years old he was in familiar territory – an alcoholic, a womanizer, defeated, and ashamed. “I really did believe that there was something that was wrong with me.”

Andre remembered the joy he felt when he gave his life to Christ at nineteen. He’d just been arrested on alcohol-related charges, kicked out of college and sent to live with Christian relatives in Louisiana. “My relatives are talking about Jesus is so great and so real, and can heal you, and can transform your life. I've tried everything else. So, I just made a decision to try Jesus. And at that moment, burdens were lifted, weights were lifted. I felt free. It was life altering.”

Andre put his old life behind him and within a year married someone he met at church. They soon started a family. As the years rolled by, Andre realized something wasn’t quite right, but didn’t know what it was. "Subtly and gradually over time, I began to back away and grow a little bit colder. I began to default back until that old person, just mad and angry and not a very fun person to be around. The drinking escalated to the point where I was drinking every day. Because in my mind I'm saying to myself, ‘What does it matter?’”

Andre’s rage fueled his addiction and led to four DUI’s and the end of his twenty-two year marriage. After the divorce, Andre spent the next seven years living alone, drinking and partying. “I justified the things that I was doing. I guess if I'm gonna go to hell, I'm going with gasoline draws on, that was my mentality. I enjoyed the drinking. I enjoyed the rambunctious lifestyle. It was fun, but I was still empty.”

By his mid-40’s, Andre had grown tired of his lifestyle and started attending church again periodically, hoping to rekindle his relationship with God. However, drinking was still a big part of his life. "I felt emotionally tired, just drained, and realized that this is not the pathway forward. I said, ‘God, I want to fulfill my purpose. If that's possible, I need you to help me so that I could depend on you and not these vices. I can't do it by myself. I need your help.’”

A short time later, Andre started dating Otiwa, a strong Christian woman he hoped to one day marry. One night, after his fifth dui, he called Otiwa from jail. Her response brought Andre to his knees. "I don't want a life with a man who has a drinking problem,’ she said, ‘but you need to know that I see you and I know who you are in God.’ She believed in me. She saw who I was when I never really felt that very many people ever saw who I was. And what she saw was the man of God. It was something about the way that she believed in me that brought me back to the cross and brought me to a position of understanding more fully his love for me that is unconditional.”

Andre began to realize how far he’d strayed from God. “My dialogues with God became very transparent. Telling him that, ‘Yes, I do need you. I'm surrendering. I thought I was fully surrendered before and I wasn't, obviously. Help me to be more like you.’” Andre stopped drinking cold turkey, and, in 2014, married Otiwa. Although growing in his relationship with God, something was still missing.

Then, the following year, Andre says God prompted him to write a letter—a letter of forgiveness to the man who had sexually abused him for three years, starting when Andre was seven. He’d never told anyone. “It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I carried around this feeling of deep emptiness on the inside. It was almost like a sick feeling in my gut. What I found was that those feelings of darkness, of confusion, lack of self-worth, insecurities--when I drank, it kind of went away.”

Through the years, Andre shelved his deep hatred toward his abuser. “I've never been a violent person, but in my mind, I wanted to kill him. And I carried that thought around for a long time. I was very angry, very bitter. I felt like he had stolen something from me that I could never recapture, that I could never regain, and that it was so unfair.”

Now, it was time to let it go. “When I did that, there was something so liberating and so freeing for me. It is really hard to describe, other than saying that it literally felt like chains kind of fell off. I noticed after that, that relationally everything got better. I became more patient; it was really transformative.”  

Today, Andre and his wife have a beautiful marriage and minister at their church together. He says extending forgiveness allowed him to become the kind of man he always wanted to be. “It's made me to understand the level of His love--that's just so unconditional. I try to position myself to love the way that He loves, without restriction and look beyond people's faults. I believe He asked us to forgive because He wants us to follow his example. He had to forgive the very ones that crucified Him. That's a hard thing to do. It kind of makes stuff we go through kind of small. And I wanna be like that. I wanna be able to love like that.”

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About The Author

Amy Reid

Amy Reid has been a Features Producer with the Christian Broadcasting Network since 2003 and has a Master’s in Journalism from Regent University. When she’s not working on a story she’s passionate about, she loves to cook, garden, read and travel.