This past Sunday my church continued it’s tradition of having a giving thanks service on the last Sunday of the year. Pastor Joseph sent out an email a day or two before prompting us to come prepared with what we wanted to share with the congregation. As I reflected I realized the thing I am most thankful for in 2013 is the breakthrough I had forgiving my dad. From the outside it might have appeared that my dad and I had a great relationship. My dad always hugs me, we go father-daughter dates, we tell inside jokes, but inside I held on to the times my dad hurt me. To be close to my dad meant the risk of reopening past wounds. In Spring 2013 I was home for a visit with my parents. What started out as a lovely day of kayaking ended in the reopening of my festering wound. Even though my dad had been calm and collected most of the day one little bout of frustration brought back thoughts of unforgiven arguments.
I’ve heard people say, and probably uttered the very words myself, “Why should I forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?” The very definition of forgiveness implies that the pardon is undeserved. Through the gentle guidance and counsel of my pastor’s wife Marlin I was able to recognize that much of my physical and emotional pain stemmed from the grudges I held against my dad. Not only was I holding him in bondage but myself. To break the chains of unforgiveness would grant us both freedom, but I could not gain freedom without also granting him freedom. It is like a prison guard shackled to a prisoner. In order for him to be free he must also set the prisoner free. What a predicament!
In my pain and struggle to forgive, in my moment of desperation on that spring day, I went in my parents’ guest room, opened my Bible, and prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but when I came out I slowly ate my dinner in silence and let the Holy Spirit stir within me. Afterward I knocked on my dad’s bedroom door, “Can I come in?” I sat next to him on the bed and tried pouring out my heart in my own heartfelt words, but it didn’t seem to sink in to him how hard this conversation was for me. Finally I looked him in the eyes, I had no words to speak and yet my lips spoke, “Dad, you know the Bible front to back. You know the men of the Bible are remembered not for being perfect, but for being changed. I don’t want you to be remembered as a man who wouldn’t change.” I’ve never seen a tear come to my dad’s eye before that day except maybe one other occasion, but I like to think I saw a tear that evening. After our conversation I had to leave to make the trek back to the Bay Area. It hurt to leave it like that, but as I drove home I heard the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts. I knew God had already begun His work in my dad’s heart, but just as importantly He had begun His work in my heart. Not only has my dad been changed, but we have both been set free.
Due to privacy I didn’t want to reveal what exactly I forgave my dad for, but I do want to clarify it was typical father-daughter stuff, nothing major. However I do want to stress that God wants us to forgive even the harshest of hurts.
My Aunt Wanda told me to watch the video clip below. She was very moved and inspired by this man’s ability to forgive. I hope you are too.
Is there someone deserving or, more importantly, undeserving who you need to forgive? Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to help you start. It’s the best New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it.