For a long time, certain triggers made me feel as if someone had poured acid; to forgive implying a gross injustice. The thorns of forgiveness rebelled against the unfairness of all.
It’s hard not to harbor bitterness.
For years I nurtured a dark, deep-rooted hatred for my father. I didn’t realize the volatility until one day, in innocence, my (at-the-time) young daughter asked about her grandfather.
Her grandfather? My churning stomach recoiled at the bite of her words. She would call the man who abused me her grandfather?
I offered some lame rationale which satisfied until her older years brought us face to face with the aftershocks of my young life. One day my daughter uncovered an article of mine, which shared an overview of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my father. She had questions for me; questions I wasn’t ready for.
I wish I could say I gently sat her down and explained how God’s grace covers a multitude of sins, how the same Jesus who died for me and her died for my father, and how, as fleshy humans in a fallen world, we are all, unfortunately, capable of evil to some degree.
I did not. I spewed vicious, hurtful words about his atrocious behavior which planted seeds of hatred, fear, and confusion in a fragile teenage heart.
And I am a Christian. A Christian taught to forgive.
Well-meaning pastors, counselors, and friends had urged me, “forgive.” But all I heard was cajoling manipulation designed to trick me into excusing wrong behavior. Forgiveness was something I couldn’t offer from the heart.
“Someday, God.” I made a dangerous promise.
Out of a sole fear of divine punishment I repeatedly promised God I would forgive. Someday was easier to digest. It was “out there”—an elusive future promise never to materialize, a commitment that offered temporary protection.
But God called me to forgive now. Today. In this go-round on earth.
It was a heart-work only God could do. Eventually, I surrendered the work to Him. For on my own, I could never yield my right for vengeance, my need to understand, or the anger which camouflaged my pain. But I knew the right thing to do. Motivated by a love for God (just as I chose Christ as my Savior) I had to choose, in faith, to forgive my father.
God honored my commitment. Completely unaware to me, he worked in my heart as the days passed.
A couple months later I stood in my kitchen, alone in the house. The aroma of freshly-chopped garlic signaled me to turn on the stove. Momentarily distracted, I watched the black stovetop surface molt into vibrant color. Flame red. An unpleasant thought scorched my mind. I envisioned my father spending an eternity in hell. Tears formed in my eyes and trickled down my face. With Christ’s heart in me, I realized I no longer wanted revenge. I wouldn’t wish the ravages of hell on any man—including the man who had brought so much pain in my own life, my father.
Grace does such cool things in one’s heart, unexpected.
How about you? Someone God has called you to forgive, yet it feels impossible?
Father, we sometimes struggle with this issue of forgiveness—as if forgiveness somehow makes what the others did acceptable. It’s not acceptable Lord, and in our humanness, we can’t always comprehend or allow forgiveness. What they did was wrong, excruciatingly painful. But Lord, truth is, we’ve done bad things too. We have turned away from you; we have hurt people. Please help us grant those who have hurt us your mercy, and please (supernaturally) release us from this pent up pain of not letting go.
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