I was speaking with a young woman in our church a couple of weeks ago and she told me an amazing story.. “About a year ago,” the lady said to me, “you were speaking on Sunday morning about what happens when we don’t forgive someone, and comparing the result to when we do forgive them.”
I remembered the subject, so I asked her what had happened to her. Why did she want to remind me of what I’d said.
“Well,” she continued, “I didn’t like what I’d heard from you. I resented the fact that you were suggesting that I do something I believed was inappropriate. You see, when I was a young girl, from ages 10 to 16 my father did unspeakable things to me in the name of what he called love.”
“I left home as soon as I was able to get a job. Moved away from my family home, and have not spoken to my father since I left. I have hated him for what he did. I only saw him once, and that was at my mom’s funeral. I believed that my father’s behaviour pushed mom to an early death.”
Of course no one really understands how another person feels unless he has walked in their shoes, but I did know, at that point in her story, where she was going with the subject of forgiveness.
“Go on, if you can,” I responded, “tell me what happened next.”
“The truth is, my father had ruined my life. I refused to forgive him for what he’d done to me, but I seemed to be the one who was suffering more than he was and that’s when I happened to be in church that Sunday and heard you talk about forgiveness. What does he know about forgiveness? I asked myself.”
“But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to forgive my father–even though he certainly didn’t deserve it. Deep inside somewhere, I knew what you were saying was right.”
That made me feel a bit better about my talk on forgiveness, but I was curious as to how this dear young mom had reacted to her inner conflict–to forgive or not to forgive. Her face began to brighten as she continued her story.
“Within two weeks I couldn’t take it any more. I gave in to what I secretly knew was right. All by myself, as my tears flowed I finally, after 20 years of pain and sadness, said to God, “I forgive my dad for what he did to me.” I couldn’t write to my father, or speak to him on the phone at that time–my emotions were far too tender, but I did release him from my anger and unforgiveness.”
“How did you feel after that?” I ventured to press.
“I cried and I cried. It was like a dam had burst in my soul, but within the hour, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I don’t understand it, but I felt free!”
She smiled and looked me in the eye when she added, “Now don’t go thinking that my dad and I became best friends after that. I’ve only spoken to him once since then; but another very strange thing did happen about three months after I forgave him.”
We’ll pick up the story next week.
Barry Buzza is the author of 12 books including The Red Thread, Life Center, Life Journey and Life Purpose . He is a veteran Canadian pastor and a regular columnist with his local paper. http://www.barrybuzza.com/books.html