Broken Jars and New Beginnings – Finding Freedom in Forgiveness

That day I realized that forgiveness is about more than being set free—it is about acknowledging and honoring the great sacrifice my Savior made for me.

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In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes a concept she calls “the marble jar.” The idea was initiated by her daughter’s teacher, who kept a bag of colored marbles on her desk next to a glass jar. Whenever the class made good choices, marbles would go in. When the class made poor choices, marbles would come out. When the marble jar was filled to the top, the students were rewarded with a celebration.

In talking to her daughter about trust, Brown used the marble jar as an analogy. She asked her daughter to envision her friendships as marble jars where a kind word, helping hand or kept secret resulted in a marble being added to the jar, while harsh words, selfishness, or shared secrets caused them to come out. Her daughter was immediately able to identify her “marble jar friends,” and they discussed how trust in relationships is built one marble at a time. 1

The same principle applies to adult relationships. Every selfless act or turn toward one another builds connection. That connection, over time, builds trust. The opposite is also true.  Selfishness, turning away, and disengagement erode trust. In extreme cases, acts of betrayal can lead us to empty out our marble jars completely.

When my husband and I began marital counseling, our marble jar wasn’t just empty. It was shattered into a million pieces on the floor—shards of brokenness that had become impossible to ignore. I sat in the counselor’s office glaring sorrowfully at the mess we’d made, gaping wounds hidden behind bandages of defensiveness, blame, and disengagement.

How on Earth did we end up here?

But alas, the moment arrived where we could sweep up the pieces and put them back together! I was bursting at the seams to get started—to clean up the mess and repair our marriage.

But that’s not how it happened at all. 

Our counselor asked how we met and what initially drew us to one another. She inquired about our kids, our careers, and what we liked to do.

Why are we making small talk? I thought. Did she not see all the broken pieces? Was there no sense of urgency in picking them up?

I wanted to talk about the “big stuff.”  But, we weren’t there yet. “Patience,” she told me.  “We’ll get there.  Trust in the process.”

Waiting was hard. Arriving at a place where we could talk about anything more than a two on a ten-point “sensitivity scale” took months. Even then, emotionally charged topics triggered painful memories that led to anger and frustration. There were many times I tried to push conversations in the name of reconciliation, but doing so only delayed the process.

Over time, God revealed a path to healing that looked different than I had imagined. He showed me that sometimes the solution to restoring relationships isn’t to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together. It’s to surrender the pieces to Him and start a new marble jar.



I can recall trying everything in my power to forgive. I prayed, studied scripture, and listened to sermons. I walked into counseling sessions with blank sheets of paper to symbolize a fresh start.  On multiple occasions I thought I’d moved forward because I believed forgiveness was instantaneous—an individual’s decision to be “set free” from bitterness and other strongholds. Reminders of my past that resurfaced anxiety and resentment proved this was not the case. 

God later showed me that true forgiveness takes two—an individual submitted to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a process that occurred gradually as I grew in my faith and which I could not fully comprehend until I experienced it for myself. The depth of my forgiveness for others paralleled the depth of my relationship with Christ.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

To forgive as God forgives—fully, freely, and independently of the severity or frequency of the offense—we must first be in Christ. We become in Christ the moment we place our faith in Him and accept His sacrifice on the cross as a payment for our sin. But to bear fruit, including the love and kindness required for Christlike forgiveness, we must abide in Him. To abide goes beyond believing to include trusting and receiving His love and His Word into our hearts. It is to act in accordance with Jesus’ teaching such that it changes the way we live.2

Part of this process involves pruning—removing the branches that aren’t producing Godly fruit and carefully caring for those that do. Jesus describes this process in John 15:1-2.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Pruning occurs through the work of the Holy Spirit and by God during periods of trial. The process is often painful, but God allows it for the purpose of restoring us into His likeness. In my case, to fully forgive, I needed to do more than surrender my right to get even, need for explanations, and desire for what I considered a “heartfelt apology.” I needed to “prune” my pride. The problem was, I didn’t see that yet. This revelation would only come in time through consistent prayer, personal reflection, and keeping my eyes open for how God might speak to me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24




In the spring of 2018, I attended a Christian women’s conference. During the testimonies portion of the program, a young woman shared her story of terminating an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the shame she carried from her decision. Years later, she became involved with the prison ministry and was tasked with being a pen pal to an inmate who had brutally murdered his 3-year-old daughter.

Appalled by the graphic details of the police report, she wasn’t sure she could follow through with the assignment. She admitted to judging him and questioned whether she could continue the ministry. In a moment of prayer, God spoke to her.

You can do this ministry. This man is no different from you. He took an innocent child’s life, and so did you. The world may view your sins differently, but I do not. I brought this man to you for a reason.

Five years after the abortion, she became pregnant again. At her baby shower, she wept both for her lost child and for the feelings of unworthiness she had struggled with for so long. It was then that God reminded her, I have forgiven you. You must forgive yourself so you can move into everything that I have in store for you.

She continued the prison ministry and that man became her closest inmate. He wasn’t able to admit to her what he did to his daughter, but He came to Christ and accepted God’s forgiveness. Christ’s redemptive work shined through a convicted criminal—a man who may never experience physical freedom this side of heaven but has taken hold of spiritual freedom through his faith in Jesus.

As I listened to her testimony, God revealed that I too had judged and my pride and defensive nature had put up walls that delayed the healing process, inhibited my growth, and prevented the Holy Spirit’s power from working through me. To forgive as God in Christ forgives, those walls needed to come down.



A few weeks after that conference, there was a situation where I acted out of alignment and hurt someone I deeply cared about. In that moment, my walls came down as God brought the woman’s testimony to mind.

He reminded me that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us are perfect. While the world may view sins differently, when laid at the foot of the cross the result of all sin is the same: forgiveness.

As Christians, we are called to live differently by forgiving as God forgives—independent of the severity of the offense. Forgiveness sets us free from anger, bitterness, and resentment that poison our hearts so we can move toward healing. It restores our joy, rekindles our peace, and strengthens our prayer life with God.

Jesus came and endured the suffering for our sins so God would see us as righteous. While hanging on a cross, He forgave those who had wronged him—without any apology or confession of guilt—so that we could forgive too. As God reminded me of this powerful truth, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

That day I realized that forgiveness is about more than being set free—it is about acknowledging and honoring the great sacrifice my Savior made for me.



God took my mistake and turned it into a gift. For the longest time, I had fixated on ways I’d been hurt and saw the situation solely through the lens of pain, focused on what I needed or “deserved” to move forward. I had judged the actions of others and convinced myself I could never do such a thing. But God woke me up.

God humbled me and helped me view the situation from His perspective—through the eyes of a grace-filled Father who, because of His great love for me, extends His mercy so that I am made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). That day, I stopped sitting in the dark trying to put back the pieces of my broken “marble jar” that God had already redeemed. I stood up, shook off the chains of bitterness and resentment that Christ had broken for me, and stepped over the threshold into the light. Then, I shut the door to my past. The pieces didn’t disappear, but they no longer defined me. Instead, they fueled me to move forward—toward Christ.

In God’s light, shame and insecurity can not hide. Self-pity is replaced with empathy and compassion that open the door to connection. Christlike love and forgiveness become the only options. Through His grace, we are cleansed of our sin and given another chance. The question that remains is, will we extend that gift to others?

Might it be your turn to forgive as God in Christ forgave you?  Will you take out a new marble jar?

When we come to know Jesus and experience the healing power of forgiveness, we become free in Christ and able to move into everything God has in store for us.

The woman from the conference went on to launch a speaking ministry and has dedicated her life to restoring, empowering, and educating women to know the truth and love of their Heavenly Father. I have found peace and freedom in Christ, become more fully myself, and am stronger in my faith as a result of my journey. 

As for my marriage, my husband and I rebuilt it, one marble at a time, and are now in a better place than we have ever been. With each kind word, thoughtful gesture, or shared moment of vulnerability, a marble goes into the jar. Occasionally, a marble comes out. In those moments, we are given another opportunity to extend God’s grace and forgiveness to one another.

Reconciliation is a process, but unlike the daughter’s teacher, we don’t have to wait until our jar is full to celebrate. We can praise God daily for the work He’s doing in each of us as we learn how to live surrendered to Him.

Call To Action: In the words of A.W. Tozer, “You have been forgiven, so act like it!” What does that mean for you today? Do you need the reminder that your sins are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice so you can forgive yourself? Do you need to make an intentional decision to forgive those who have hurt you, and ask for God’s help? Forgiveness takes courage, but it also sets you free so God can heal your heart and you can know His love to greater depths.


1. Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books.

2. Piper, John. (2017, September 22.) What Does It Mean to ‘Abide in Christ’?  Desiring God.  Retrieved January 27, 2019, from



This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Jen Roland

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About the Author

Fueled Fit Focused was inspired by my passion for healthy living, my faith, and my desire to help others move from frazzled to focused and from a full, busy life to a fulfilling, purposeful one. I help women cultivate positive lifestyle habits for their mind, body, and soul with their faith as a foundation for sustainable change. This is accomplished through personalized coaching, speaking, workout sessions, and writing. I provide practical tips for simplified, healthy living so we can move toward wholeness together. To learn more about my ministry, visit or connect with me on Facebook @coachjenroland or Instagram @jenroland.