"Forgive and Live Free."
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“We were all hiding in a closet in the back room. He was standing at the doorway, and he said, ‘Come out or I'm coming in.’ There was just such that sense of dread like, "This is it. This is the night we die.” For seven long years Victor Marx endured abuse from his stepdad that included physical, mental, and sexual torture. He recalls, “It made me really in a sense give up any hope for anything else and realize that this was my life. You just accept it.” The one bright spot in his week was going to church on Sundays with his mom and siblings. Though a safe place, church also brought more confusion. He says, “Because of the abuse coming from a father figure, I never could really relate to God as a loving father. Who I liked was Jesus.”
However, in Victor’s eyes, Jesus was weak. That is until the night Victor, his mom, and siblings cowered in a closet as his drunk stepdad threatened them with a handgun. Victor’s mom prayed to Jesus for protection. He recalls, “My stepfather tried to come into the room and he couldn't. He literally was physically restrained. I know that my perspective of Jesus changed after that night, and the main thing is I realized he was alive.”
Eventually his stepdad passed out. The family escaped to a neighbor’s house and never returned. The next several years were chaotic – his mom married four more times and Victor bounced between more than two dozen different homes and schools. Meanwhile, his anger and hatred towards his abusive stepdad only grew stronger. He says, “I certainly had suppressed anger. I started drugs early as a kid, because of pain. There'd be moments of temporary relief, but the real problems never went away.”
His stepdad wasn’t the only person Victor blamed for his pain. Victor recalls, “I was angry at my real dad because I'm like, ‘Why don't you come and save us out of this?’ Instead of him being a source of hope, he was a source of anger for me.” After high school, Victor joined the Marines for stability, camaraderie, and most importantly, to escape his family. He also started training in martial arts to help control his rage. He says, “It helped me build a sense of restraint where I didn't always have to take my anger out on somebody. Because as a kid I was like, ‘One day, no one's going to be able to hurt me again.’ The main thing missing in my life was just peace.”
Then, when he was 20, Victor got a letter from his biological dad apologizing for his absence from Victor’s life. It also said he had become a Christian and invited Victor to church. The two spoke and Victor accepted the invitation. He recalls, “I could tell he cared about me. There was something that was changed about him. And then he started sharing his story of coming to faith, and it was compelling.” Inspired, Victor ran to the front of the church at the end of the service. He says, “And I remember falling at my knees, just crying. I felt my sin, and at the same time I felt God's love for me. I had never felt love until that moment in my life. That's when I surrendered my life to Christ.”
Now growing in his faith, Victor forgave his father. They became best friends and Victor even asked his dad to be his best man at his wedding. He says, “God did such a beautiful reconciliation. I eventually came to that place where I gave up my right to hurt my dad back for hurting me, by not being there.” Through counseling and prayer, Victor found healing from many of his past traumas. However, there was one thing he refused to face: the anger and unforgiveness towards his abusive stepfather – something he would carry for another 20 years. Until one day, he gave in to God’s prompting. Victor recalls, “I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘Go find him. You've got to show him my love. Love your enemies.’ I go, ‘I don't love this guy.’"
After weeks of searching, Victor found his stepdad, sick and living in a trailer. Victor took him to a hospital where they learned he had cancer and only weeks to live. Victor recalls, “I'm like, ‘Well, he's no longer a threat. He can't hurt anybody,’ right? And that's when I really felt God saying, ‘Yeah, you've got to fully forgive him and show him my love.’ So, I would go into the hospital and read scripture to him. I don't even know if he was listening because he was so hard-hearted still. I remember thinking, ‘He doesn't deserve my forgiveness.’ I really heard the gentle voice of God through his spirit say, ‘Neither do you, but I forgave you.’ And that's when I realized, okay, I can't hold this anger against him."
Finally, Victor chose to forgive his stepdad and continued to visit him regularly. Then one morning Victor recalls visiting his step dad and, “He goes, ‘Nurse, this is my son. I'm proud of him.’ And then I was stunned. I never heard that. He said, ‘He's been worried about my eternity, but he doesn't have to worry anymore.’ He said, ‘I made it right with God last night.’ I said, ‘Dad, I love you.’ And he looked right back at me and he said, ‘Boy, I love you, too.’ I would have never thought that hearing him say he loved me would have felt so good, never. And man, did it ever. It healed, just those words, ‘I love you too, boy,’ those words healed something in my soul.”
That was the last visit they had. His stepdad died a short time later. Victor says, “Sometimes God will require believers to go to their worst enemy and be the living presence of God, to obey and do whatever, and love them, so that they know God has forgiven them.”
Victor rejoices that today he is free from the burdens of his traumatic past. He loves to share how God’s love changed his life and wants others to know the joy that forgiveness brings. He says, “Come to know Christ. See Him redeem the worst of your past because He can redeem it all. It frees us; not only them, but it frees us. You walk free of carrying this baggage of bitterness and hatred. Forgive and live free.”
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