Love Like Jesus: Forgiveness Isn't For Them
After that trip to see mom and dad, I came home a different person. That trip taught me so much. I learned how important it is to make sure your final affairs are in order BEFORE you die or get too ill or incapacitated to do anything about them. I learned how important it is to set yourself up financially as early as you can in adulthood and that it's not too late to start taking those steps, so that you are not dependent on the government to take care of you in your golden years. I learned what it means to love like Jesus as I said goodbye to dad.
Mom taught me my whole life to honor my dad regardless of whether or not he deserved it. She taught me by example, not only with my dad but with hers as well. You see her dad, my grandfather, was not a nice man. He had a lot of anger and bitterness in his heart from his past that he just couldn't seem to let go of. He wasn't t nice to her. As a matter of fact, in her early teen years, he pretty much wanted nothing to do with her from that point on. He was the same with me.
As time went on, with her dad, she continued to pray for him and honor him. And then I saw how she did that with my dad. I didn't understand why she would do those things for men who were so hurtful to her and to me. I was in my mid-30's and still calling mom on my birthday every year crying and asking her why dad didn't love me, because he never called me on my birthday. Mom always knew what to say and do. But this was always the one time that she didn't have an answer to my question. She would simply say, "Denise, I don't know why your dad is the way he is or why God is allowing you to go through this, but I know the one who does. I went through the same things with my dad. But Jesus helped me to love him, honor him and forgive him. Pray for your dad and talk to Jesus about it. You can't hold a grudge and pray for someone at the same time."
I always hated it when she would say that because it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I didn't want to love, honor my dad or forgive him. I didn't think he deserved it. I would think to myself, "Why in the world would I want to love, honor or forgive someone like dad who was so self-absorbed and selfish that he couldn't even be bothered to call me on my birthday? Well, I'm not doing that." I ignored mom's advice. I distanced myself from dad. He never went out his way to contact me, ever, unless he wanted something or it benefited him in some way. I decided he knew my phone number and how to find me if he wanted to, but I was done chasing him down and trying to make him want to be a part of my life when clearly he didn't want that. And you know what? That's okay! There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing peace in your life even if it means certain people can't or don't want to be in it.
Years passed by. And as time went on, there was still a part of me that longed for a relationship with my dad. I think every little girl from an early age desires to have a good relationship with her father. Even at 40-something years old, the little girl in me still wanted that. Last year when dad started calling me on a regular basis, I was totally skeptical. Like I said, he never called unless he wanted something or unless it benefited him in some way. After a few phone calls though, this time I just felt like something was different. I wanted to believe that he wanted nothing but to finally be a part of my life, but I was too afraid to let my guard down, get my hopes up and then be hurt again.
That's when mom's words rang in my ears once again. Love, honor and forgive. I started having serious talks with God. "Lord, how can you expect me to do these things? He doesn't deserve it. He never does the right things by anyone else but himself. How can I love and honor a man like that? And forgive him? There's no way I can do that. It's too hard and too painful after all the hurt and pain he has caused me." But the truth is, by not doing those things, by not doing what was right and what God expected me to do, I wasn't doing the right things either.
The bible says in Exodus 20:12, "Honor thy mother and father." Read that again, honor thy mother and father, PERIOD. It doesn't say we honor them only if they deserve it, or if we want to. It simply says to do it. Another reason to forgive others is because God forgave you and you didn't deserve it either. Psalm 103:10-14 says, "He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for his mercy toward those who fear and honor him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth." Ephesians 4:31-32 says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
Proverbs 17:9 tells us that dwelling on others faults separates us from them, just as our own sin separates us from God. Like I said earlier, it's ok to choose peace in your life and to separate yourself from them if needed, but you should always leave room for them to seek forgiveness from you, no matter what they have done to you, even if you have already forgiven them. That doesn't mean that if they come to you seeking forgiveness that you have to let them back into your life, or that you have to be a part of theirs. I never completely closed the door of my life to my dad. He always knew where to find me and how to contact me if he wanted to. I just chose to not dwell on his faults and to move on with my life and left the door open in case he decided he wanted to be apart of it.
Now I know some of you may be reading this and thinking, "But Denise you just don't understand. You don't know what my mother, father, sister, brother, friend has done to me! Things so horrible I could never forgive them, much less love or honor them!" You are right, I don't know or understand your particular circumstances. But I know the one who does. Jesus. Maybe you were abused or abandoned or forsaken. Maybe some one you love was hurt or taken from you by the hands of someone else, even a stranger. Maybe they died and left unresolved issues between you and them. There are so many circumstances that are so unimaginably horrible, but even in those circumstances you will find peace in forgiveness. When you forgive others, your forgiveness isn't for them, it's for you, so that you don't have to carry that pain in your heart anymore. So you can go on with your life with true peace in your heart. In the next post we will take this discussion to the next level and talk about loving, honoring and forgiving others when the circumstances around that need are extremely bitter and painful.
Are you struggling to forgive someone? Start by praying right now and asking God to help you forgive them as he forgave you.
"Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I need to forgive (their name(s)). I know that you died on the cross for his/her/their sins just as you did for mine. I can't let go of the pain he/she/they have caused me, but I want to and I want true peace in my life. Please help me to learn to forgive him/her/them and to let go of the hurt and pain they have caused me. Help me to accept the things I can not change and to change the things I can and give me the wisdom to know the difference. In Jesus name, Amen."