Continuing on with my series of Becoming What I Came To Be, another trait that took me years to learn was the fine art of forgiveness. When you experience hurt after hurt, the last thing you want to think about is forgiving those who hurt you!
So was my life.
As I have mentioned previously, my sister and I were not raised in a Christian home, even though mother would never have agreed with that assessment. After all, her dad had been a minister, so of course she was a Christian! And, since she was a “Christian,” we were, as well – after we completed the confirmation (a/k/a affirmation of faith) process that we were to go through at the church we visited infrequently.
I have to admit I really don’t remember much about the whole confirmation procedure; I just wanted to get it over with because mom was making me do it. It didn’t help matters that there was a guy in my class I also went to school with, and he was mean, always making fun of me and my family – especially when dad would come to pick me up from church in our old Edsel. I was embarrassed and humiliated.
Anyway, I’m sure during those classes the subject of forgiveness must’ve been taught, but I don’t remember hearing about it. Of course even if I had, I wouldn’t have done it anyway.
My motto? Payback instead of forgive.
When people make fun of you it hurts, doesn’t it? Bullying was definitely alive even back when I was young! Let’s face it – kids can be mean (but so can grownups).
And that included me.
When someone made fun of me (or I perceived they were), my first thought was how could I get them back – I’d show them! The problem was, I totally failed to realize (or even care) that what I was doing to these other kids was exactly what had hurt me so badly. It just didn’t matter. Since they hurt me, I was going to try and figure out how to hurt them back. The biblical truth that we’re to forgive each other by being patient and gracious (Colossians 3:13) certainly never entered my mind.
My unforgiving attitude also ended up being directed at my mother a lot, especially after dad had an emotional breakdown in my early teens and disappeared from our lives. I knew without a doubt that it was her fault! If she hadn’t always been yelling at him and complaining about things, dad would never have suffered as he did – and he would still be in my life.
So I began hurting mother verbally with mean words when I was a teen. I got extremely sassy and often would be downright nasty. She needed to pay!
Even when I moved away from home when I was 17 years-old, I still carried unforgiveness towards her in my heart. It never entered my mind that she could’ve been hurting and missing my dad too…
But the worse case of my unforgiving heart came when I found out I was pregnant with twins when our son Matthew was 2 years-old. I had wanted only one more child, not two! How could God do this to me?
Yes, to me God was simply a puppet on a string – He should be following my orders!
But our Heavenly Father has ways of getting our attention, doesn’t He? He got my attention when at 5+ months I ended up having to undergo an emergency C-section, which I detail in my book The God of All Comfort. Through the trauma and heartbreak of the following 8+ months I finally came to realize Who was in charge.
And through that all, God also patiently began to teach me the importance of forgiveness.
In the book, God Will Make a Way, Dr. John Townsend says we need to “learn to let go of blame, learn from the past, and take ownership in the present” (p. 277). Good words.
Next week I’ll talk about how hard it was for me to genuinely learn to love others. Have you struggled with that, as well?