All of us at one time or another will run into a situation that will require us to either forgive and move on or hold tightly to our anger and let unforgiveness rule us. We often fill justified in our anger, a wrong was done to us and we deserve to be angry, it is our right! Funny thing is anger and unforgiveness often does not affect the other person, but it will ruin you. We all need to live with a forgiving heart, one that beats out forgiveness before it is even asked for because many times it is not. We have to make the decision beforehand to be forgiving, no matter what.
I feel like I have had millions of truckloads of circumstances come my way in my lifetime to learn how to forgive. Many of these lessons started very early in life. Being a person who has endured abuse from several, especially that of a close relative, my dad, I needed to learn early on how to forgive and move past the hurts. It is not easy I can tell you that.
My grandmother had no idea of the abuse I was enduring, but being the Godly woman she was she was always giving me life lessons hand in hand with Bible lessons. She loved to teach me about what God had to say about whatever I was talking about. I would often question her about whether or not it was okay to be mad at bad people. Was it okay if I did not like them and wanted them to go away? She very gently would give me a lesson on what the Bible had to say about forgiveness. She would quote these verses to me and several others while showing me where they were in the Bible.
Matthew 6:14 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” and Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven,” and lastly Matthew 6:12 “And forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
She lived out what she said, daily, sacrificially. Her example helped to light my way as if God was shining a light down on the path I was to take. Even as a child I could understand how important forgiveness was. And I wanted to be like my grandmother. For me, she was what a true Christian looked like. She walked her talk.
One of my opportunity to forgive lessons came in the form of a jump. Yes, a jump. Here is what happened. Living out in the country in rural WV there was nothing around other than cow fields, hay fields, corn fields etc. You get the idea. Our fun came from what we could think up. One of the things we liked to do was to get up onto the roof of our one- story house and play.
Each of us taking turns to watch down the long valley for any sign of our dad coming home. If we saw him we were to sound the alarm, scurry down the ladder, run to put it back by the shed and scatter. Sounds easy enough right?
Well, on this particular day we had been playing like we were hiding up high away from Indians. I was not paying attention to the road off on another corner of the house playing my part. One of my brothers spotted our dad coming home and signaled the others to get down. I was not aware it was happening until I saw them running down below me with the ladder. Fear took hold of my heart, I knew he was coming and I knew I was going to be in big touble, I was sure to be switched or have the belt taken to me. It was going to hurt a lot!
As my dad drove in front of the house to get to the driveway on the side of the house I could see him looking at me. I felt sick to my stomach, this was not good. I was caught and there was no place to run and hide. He pulls up beside the house and comes walking to where I am staring down, feeling like crying. He asks me why I am up there. He asks me if I know I am not supposed to be up there. I am wondering why he is not yelling in his usual way. He was very calm, and that unnerved me. He proceeds to tell me that he is tired, he does not want to go get the ladder and I am to jump into his arms.
I asked him three times, do you promise to catch me. Yes, I will catch you was his calm answer every time. Finally, he says firmly ” I said to jump!”
I only hesitated a second later and I jumped with full abandon expecting to be caught. Well, you guessed it, He moved dropped his arms and I landed with a horribly hard thump. My legs buckled, my knees hit my chin, I fell backward in pain, feeling completely rattled. I was not sure I could get up and walk and all the while I am hearing him say this to me: “now, this will teach you two things, one, do not get on my roof again, two, never trust anyone!”
Tears stung my eyes, I felt so betrayed, how could he, why would he? And I was angry with myself for trusting him. I knew he would punish me, but this seemed too cruel. Well, I cannot say I forgave him right away, but over time I knew I had to, so I did what my grandmother had always said she did, I acted out my forgiveness toward him until my heart was fully able to do it. God honored my effort. He saw that I really wanted to forgive and his love helped move me to it. I knew his word said I must, so I moved in the direction and he met me on my way. Did my dad ever ask to be forgiven for that? No. We went about our days in this constant realm of pain and hurt.
I was not the only one he inflicted hurt on, it was given out to each of us in different ways. He was not a nice man at that time, un-saved and full of sin. He made no apologies for his actions. And even though I forgave him he did not seem to notice, but the one who mattered did notice. I kept praying for God to change my daddy, to save him so that he would go to heaven. God did just that! It took many years, a lot more hurts, but God answered and when he did the man he made in the place of the old was pretty great. All the things he never was and had never been was suddenly miraculously there.
When I think of all the times the Lord has forgiven me, his grace that covers all my sin; how could I not forgive another. I need forgiveness on a daily basis and He is faithful to give it and to cleanse me of all my unrighteousness. When you take away the offense and clearly see that someone is in need of Jesus, that sin has caused the problem, it makes forgiveness easier to give. You continue to love the sinner and hate the sin. But most importantly it pleases your Father in heaven, and that is everything! Be a forgiver, for yourself, and more importantly because God tells us to.
So, I leave you with this question: “Will you be a forgiver?” It is a choice only you can make.