I’ve always loved puzzles. One day, I decided to look at my life as if it’s a 100 piece puzzle.
Love within my family never reached the status of being a tradition; the beliefs and traditions that I grew up with were filled with violence and punishment. I was glad to learn that the Bible isn’t filled with personal beliefs and traditions; its focus is the word of God.
After I was baptized, I knew I needed to bring the pieces of my life’s puzzle in line with God’s word. A tradition in my family was to hold grudges against others forever. Changing the piece labelled “unforgiving” ignited an intense struggle within me. It began when I started to read Matthew’s Gospel. I was excited to find The Lord’s Prayer in the 6th chapter. I had prayed that prayer, morning after morning, all those years in elementary school, but I never knew where it came from.
When I read the two verses following the prayer, I wasn’t nearly as excited. Here’s what they say:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Here’s what I thought: Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to forgive my Mother who beat me throughout my childhood and into my mid-teens? I’m supposed to forgive her for all she did that hurt me? My next thought? This can’t be the word of God!
But yes, it is. It’s the beautiful, precious, life changing word of God!
I found this out for myself. I began to wrestle with God. “She’s never said she’s sorry,” I told Him. “Why should I forgive her? Not only that, look what happened over and over again. I don’t want to forgive her!”
I struggled with myself. Okay, I’ll forgive her. Five minutes later: No, I will not! Why should I?
But I knew why I should: I needed God’s forgiveness for myself so I knew that I had to find a way to forgive her. I couldn’t do it on my own, and that was the point.
I struggled and wrestled for 19 days in a row until I finally surrendered to the One who could help me, who could take my tiny bit of faith that this was the right thing to do, and turn it into victory. I was battle weary when I forgave my Mother, but my heart was at peace, just as God promises.
Years later, when my Mother was ready, she and I were reconciled. I cared for her in my home as she died of lung cancer there. I can tell you, without reservation, that God filled my heart with love for my Mother. She did the best she could. I miss her. She was the best Mother for me.
So, that’s how the “unforgiving” piece of my life’s puzzle was re-labelled, “Forgiving”. Thankfully, by God’s grace, it’s still called that today.
Dick Tibbits book called, “Forgive to Live” encourages us to do the right thing, the best thing. Stress isn’t good for us, and the stress of being unforgiving is mountainous. Sometimes, it can be very hard to forgive. Those are the times it’s critical to achieve it. Let’s remember, God’s grace and mercy and strength are sufficient for all things. Isn’t that a comfort? Yes, it is! Amen.