Forgiveness is a concept I’ve struggled with aplenty.
I used to think that I was excellent at forgiving people. The truth is that I don’t actually have the memory to hold a grudge. Perhaps that’s a blessing! You see, if I could remember more vividly, it’d probably be harder to let certain pains go.
That said, for the offenses that I do recall, forgiveness has become a real discipline. No, it doesn’t come naturally. Unfortunately forgiveness comes with a lot of wrestling, a lot of praying and a lot of surrendering.
In my life, I’ve learned that forgiveness is not an occurrence. Nope. It’s a decision, a commitment, a process and a way of life.
Presently, I’m processing the fact that I’m going to have to forgive my dad some more. No, he didn’t do anything different, new or extra. It’s the old stuff that I’m going to have to forgive, but forgive with more maturity, more awareness and more understanding.
This is why I say that forgiveness isn’t an occurrence (as in, it’s not always a one shot deal):
When I was five years old, my dad walked out on our family the day before Christmas while his new family (girlfriend complete with two young daughters) sat waiting in the driveway for him to pack his bags. My sister was ten; my brother was one.
There came a point in my youth when I had to forgive him for the offenses that I understood at the time. It makes sense that to the capacity that one comprehends a hurt, it is to that same capacity that the hurt must be forgiven.
But then I got a little older.
And suddenly, I understood his actions in a new light. I was a wife now. With more maturity came a greater knowledge of the selfishness of his abandonment. So having realized a deeper hurt, I had to forgive a little deeper myself.
And now I’m going to be a mom.
This week it has occurred to me that I’m going to find myself having to forgive my dad on a brand new level. I’m going to know what it feels like to have my very own child, and the pain of his abandonment is going to hit me from an angle I’ve never experienced before.
When Bennett is one, I’m going to think, “How could my dad have walked out on a baby?”
When Bennett is five, I’m going to think, “How could my dad have walked out on a kindergardener?”
And when Bennett is ten, I’m going to think, “How could my dad have disconnected from his family so greatly as to commit himself to a new family?”
And each time, I’m not going to have to forgive him again, as in, I won’t have taken the other forgivenesses back. No, I’m going to have to forgive him deeper because I’ll have a fuller understanding and perspective of his actions.
This used to confuse me, this concept of forgiveness being ongoing. I used to get frustrated with myself, thinking that my original act of forgiveness must not have been genuine as I found myself angry all over again. Eventually it occurred to me that the only reason I was angry again was because his abandonment had affected a corner of my heart that, until then, I hadn’t realized had been wounded in the first place. So how could I have possibly offered forgiveness for an unrealized offense?
In Matthew 18 verse 21, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
(Before, I used to think that Peter was imagining one person sinning against him seven times.)
Jesus wisely replied, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Yeah… Because one selfish act might hurt you in seventy-seven different ways! And you’ve got to forgive each one. You’ve just got to.
Pretty much, if we say we walk with Christ (or even just admire Him enough to want to follow in His footsteps), we’ve got to understand that this life is going to require so much forgiveness commitment that, essentially, we’re going to wind up losing count. That’s kinda the point.
(And on another deep note, think about the fact that when Christ was forgiving us while being crucified – before we ever even sought forgiveness – He, being omniscient, fully forgave, knowing full well the true-100%-every-corner-of-the-heart-77x nature of our own offenses against Him!)
That’s what’s been on my mind this week.
I’m going to have to forgive my dad some more.
I’m going to look in Bennett’s face and wonder yet again, “What was he thinking?”
And that makes me sad.
You know what I mean?
It makes me disappointed for my dad. He quit too soon. He’s missed so much.
I pray that no root of bitterness springs up in my heart over this. I pray that I won’t think that I’m better than him. I just pray for him. And I thank God that He, the Lord, hasn’t stopped forgiving me either.
I am right there with you. I know what you feel. I will never understand my bio dad but I do forgive him as Christ has forgiven me.
Thank you Suzy for your wisdom and honesty. I have a really hard time with forgiveness. I guess I “try to not let it bother me” but then I realize I need to forgive but then I see something in my life or within my marriage or child and it makes me think of my childhood and brings up bitterness in my heart and I know I need to forgive. Sometimes hurt runs deep. But I thank the Lord for my salvation and his love,healing and forgiveness and then I feel his grace to help me forgive those things that continue to hurt. I find myself praying for the lord to forgive me and them.
well said Suzanna. you just spelled it out for so many. I am 50 now, looking at another father’s day that i know will bring a flood of tears out of gratitude for my Father in heaven and tears of pain for my biological father who abandoned 6 children 45 yrs ago. the decades don’t forget and at 50, it still hurts. there is only one thing that hurts more and that is seeing the same pain stab the heart of your child, who the same thing has happened to. abandoned for another family and a father never seen again. it is hard just to write that. you are right that each year/event brings a new level of forgiveness. the truth is that both of these circumstances resulted from the sins and choices by both my mother and me and the people we chose without God’s influence or favor. i had a part in some of this and it’s true, the sins of the father (mother) can be visited upon the children. i have been forgiven. had i known Christ sooner i may not have made the choice i did. i am grateful to start a new generation walking in Christ and you have already started out right that way. the tears still come hard, but the bigger miracle is that forgiveness comes more easily after years of reflection and truth that they are a sad story of another human who is lost and disconnected from God, who they will answer to. this alone strikes the fear of God in me and more for them. i do not want them to face finality with out a Saviour. when i think of them and their other wives/children i really just get cut to the heart knowing that whatever gain they think they have in this temp life is just that-temporary; and there most certainly is a judgement time waiting. it brings me to my knees for them in hope they will turn and be saved before it’s too late here, and in eternity. hell is forever. it also occurs to me that maybe their being removed was a blessing. who knows how different that life may have been …yes, it could have been all the things i thought it should be, a happy family, a home and memories, an inheritance, growing old together -all the things i thought should be mine (yet all the things my Father in heaven will provide one day) or perhaps it would have been worse had they stayed? and then even deeper……would i have learned the things i’ve have without these painful events happening…such as the beauty of forgiveness?
forgiveness teaches us to love the unlovable they way Christ loves me…us. good insights Suzanna.
I have also felt the same, Kathleen, in that I’m not sure I’d necessarily be happier had things been different. In fact, the odds are high that my life would have been much harder. That said, I only know one life. I don’t wish things were different necessarily, but I do wish people (including me) were better. And you’re right; if we put our faith in Christ, then all the goodies that we chase for temporary pleasure in this world will be nothing compared to the eternal glories to come.
Oh Suzy! I’m not sure where to go from there because we understand each other in so many ways in this area. You have said it in a way that I don’t think I’m there yet, and my dad died March 1 as you know. After his death, you know all these hurts came to light that I thought I had forgiven. Well said my friend!!!!!
That is a very good explanation of 70×7 … I never really thought of it that way.
There’s so much I could say, but I won’t …. I am so very thankful for your spiritual maturity. I wish that I had had that when I was younger …. it would have spared us all a ton of sorrow.
I love you, Suzy !
Love you, too! You’re the best!
thanks suzy, i’m very consciously, actively working on forgiveness right now (daddy issues included in that for sure!), it sucks. childhood hurts do run very very deep, and on different levels, at different stages of life, so i think you’re right, its a process. one act may hurt in different ways at different times and may requires 77 times of forgiveness. thanks for writing about such a delicate, personal experience. God’s using that.
I have never looked at this Matthew verse this way…good insight! And how true. It would be more convenient (although i am not entirely sure it would be easier) to forgive one offense endured by another person. It often is the unexpected that throws us off, tears open new wounds to make them raw again. And also how true that holding your own little one in your arms makes you reevaluate so many experiences of your past….so much to re-learn and re-experience! A blessing and challenge all at the same time.
I have never considered myself as an overly forgiving person and while I’ve never experienced a hurt as deep as yours, I have felt like I do what Laura described as ‘not letting things bother me’. I am usually pretty good at being nice to people despite feeling angst toward them. I think sometimes really forgiving them for good seems to big to actually do sincerely. I love viewing forgiveness like this. It makes it seem alittle more attainable. Once i decide I have forgiven, I’m not signing anywhere declaring I will never have feelings again that need to be addressed. Thanks for the insight.
This. Is. The. Gospel.
Lived out and on display. What a beautiful thing to be able to see! I praise God for you 🙂 and his work in you, and through you.
I love how you brought a whole new dimension to the Gospel. We need each other so much! Thank you for sharing your heart, you impact people with your honesty.
I am in tears, it is like you were on the street and just cleaned my windshield for free, I can see so much clearer now, my heart is hurting but also I know what I must do, thank you! (((Hugs)))
Praise God for His timing!
Forgiveness is something that terrifies me. Especially forgiving someone who has hurt me so profoundly. Someone I have trusted so completely. My Mother did the same thing to me as your father did to you. I was 20 and I had just gotten out of BMW. It hurt to the core of my being. Why would I want to be a mother and a wife if I can do the same thing to my family? I don’t wish the pain on anyone! I am learning to forgive too. Its hard. The past year or so God has been healing the damage, but the path to healing is strewn with the bodies of those who couldn’t/wouldn’t finish the journey. Its so painful sometimes I’m not sure I want to go on; but I must. I will definitely be praying for you in your path of forgiveness. It sounds like you are much further along the path than me.
Wow, very helpful insight on that Matthew verse! When my children reached the age of my own father’s abandonment, I found myself not saying, ““How could my dad have walked out on a baby?”, but instead saying, “I can totally see why my dad walked out on us four children”. At the time, I only had two children and was struggling to keep my sanity. Thoughts of freedom and indulging in complete selfishness seemed such a lovely escape to my exhausted mind. But God was good to keep that thought only in my mind and for using that time in my life to show me how to forgive my dad on a different level, a more mature level, a level where I understood (some of) the reasons for his abandonment rather than just feeling the hurt from it. I look forward to hearing how God will answer that, “What was he thinking?” question in your heart. Thanks for being so transparent.
Love your take on the 70×7 bit. I never thought about it like that. Thanks for the challenge and encouragement!
I definitely understand what you mean about having to forgive again– I also saw my dad leaving in a whole new light after I was married. Thank you, Suzy…I appreciate this post a lot.
Everything worked out for the good. I’m glad he left. My life would have been so different. I imagine I would be more defiant. I would of had more bruises. I would’ve been in more dead beat relationships etc…. God was protecting all of us. I feel sorry for him. He got the very short end of the stick. I blame his mother for a lot of it. Poor guy. His life must be so empty. I can’t imagine living with all that regret and pain. I’ve always said that I would forgive him and welcome him with open arms each time he came back around. He doesn’t come around though. I’d have to reach out and I’m over it. I pray for his salvation and his freedom from his earthly bondage. (aka hoarders episode).
Suzy I never had issues relating to what you speak of but you had penned this so well I can feel where you are coming from and what you are feeling. Sometimes I look at my son and I’m haunted by things that people do to their children and it makes my heart ache. The best you can do is pour your love into your little one and make his little world a better place.
beautifully put Suzy. so much of it struck a chord deep within me. no, i am not as mom, and my dad didn’t abandon me. but, like anyone, i have been hurt deeply, and experienced what others have labelled “injustices”. That being said, all of those things have led me to become who I am today. Without suffering, we cannot learn true compassion. We wish for things to be easy, but it is through trials that we grow. Have you read the book “Hinds Feet on High Places”? It is about a woman named “Much Afraid”. The Lord gives her helpmates throughout her life journey. One is named “Sorrow” the other is named “Suffering”. When I first read that – I was angry. Like “well, great — thanks a lot God — I’m sure those are the two friends she would have chosen.” At the end of the journey, MuchAfraid reaches the mountain summit and has communion with God, her two helpmates take off their hoods. She is absolutely BLINDED by the glow coming from their faces. The lesson, clearly, is that their is an amazing beauty behind Sorry and Suffering as it is those two experiences that lead us into closer communion with God.
Thanks so much for sharing Suzy. I had never thought of deeper levels of forgiveness – based on our levels of understanding. POWERFUL stuff!!