A few weeks ago, I started blogging about having conversations with your kids. It may have seemed frivolous to start with a discussion of personality. I also pointed out that your children are unique. They are not you and you are not your parents. The reason I started out with these two notions were so that you could have the opportunity to adjust your expectations.
I started with the easy stuff. Now comes the hard part. Forgiveness. In order to really have a clear conversation with your child, you need to come with a clean slate. You cannot do that if you have bitterness and resentment that has been built up over the years. It causes you to project onto their motivations. This bitterness could be from past interactions with a current or past spouse, or with your parents, or with your in-laws, or the list goes on. Sometimes the person you need to forgive is yourself. In any case, it needs to be done so that it doesn't affect your other relationships, especially the one with your children who are less likely to understand.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is more than forgetting. It is more than saying, "That's ok," when somebody says that they are sorry. The fact is most of the time when you need to forgive somebody, that person never asked for forgiveness. And truly, the thing that they needed forgiveness from wasn't ok, but the fact that you offer forgiveness now makes it as if it never happened. Does that mean you never think about it again? Well, it's supposed to, but I am not a robot. So often, I have to ask for forgiveness if I do think about it again. That's my own sinfulness, not the other party's.
The world has provided such a crazy, messed up view of what forgiveness is that the only thing I could think of to do was to share my testimony. In advance, let me apologize to my parents who are wonderful people and did a great job of raising me. They are not responsible for other people's actions! In addition, let me be clear. This is not about me. This is about God and His glory, so please although I appreciate the compassion, don't send me a bunch of messages about how sorry you feel. You are not responsible for somebody else's actions either!
There is no easy or appropriate way to say that when I was a girl I was molested by my paternal grandfather. (I could try to hide who it was, but he has passed away now, and while trying to tell my story, it was just too hard to keep that a secret.) I think that we all have heard this story hundreds of times. It's unfortunate that we have. But it is not those events that are my story or my testimony. My testimony begins when I realized that I was still allowing those events to dictate how I behaved in certain circumstances. It dictated who I trusted. It definitely dictated my ability to sleep properly.
Forgiveness is a hard process. And it is definitely a process. I went to a couple of people, but they didn't know where to help me start. The thing is that forgiveness is also very personal. But I can tell you what I did and maybe it will help you.
The first thing I did was ask God to help understand my grandfather more. Why would somebody do something like that? There are all kinds of crazy answers out there, but I knew that God could tell me better. He did. Through prayer, I realized that my grandfather had a horrible upbringing. He had been abused himself. I felt blessed that I did not have parents like that. It helped me to have some compassion for him. It wasn't overnight by any means, but I started to feel some sympathy for him. I know it doesn't make sense to many people. That's why I am telling you. Only God can help you do something like this.
After I started to feel some sympathy towards my grandfather, things sort of snowballed from there. I found myself caring about his welfare. It was clear that he was unwell. You just don't do that kind of thing otherwise. But here we were his family and we were turning our back on him, throwing him out like trash, like he didn't matter. I felt like we needed to get him help. Some people would say that even turning our backs on him was better than he deserved. Plenty of people told me that for justice to be served that he deserved prison or even worse. Once again, I can only point you back to God. I am thankful that I don't get what I deserve. Oh so many times, I have not gotten what I deserved. Praise the Lord for that!
Soon after that I found myself praying for him. I prayed that somebody would come into his life to care for him physically and mentally. I prayed that if he had not made a profession of faith that he would do that, because I knew he did not have much longer to live.
All of a sudden, one day, I remembered something fun that I did with my Grandpa and I laughed. It dawned on me that I loved him. I did. I had not only forgiven him, but I had done it without him asking for forgiveness. Not only had I forgiven him, but our relationship together was no longer defined by that. It was defined by going swimming (seriously ALL the time with the swimming!), and hanging upside down in the tree in the backyard, and his conducting the orchestra on the radio while we sat in downtown Washington, D.C. traffic, and regular grandfather/granddaughter kind of stuff. Just like with my mother's father, who I have great memories about baseball and football, this was no longer any different. I was very sorry when he died, and I hope that I will see him again one day in Heaven. That may be upsetting to some people. It may be hard to hear or understand. But that is the power of God.
Why do I share this story? First, for myself, if I could learn to forgive others in that same way, imagine the freedom I would have! I need to remember every day that it is possible. Second, for my friends, I share this with you, because you can be set free from bitterness too. It just takes one step towards God and one step away from wanting vengeance.
I am absolutely here for anybody who wants to talk about how they can find forgiveness in their lives. Whether you are trying to find forgiveness for yourself for the first time or the hundredth, or you want help to forgive somebody else, my door is always open.
Love you guys! You can do it with God!