Deuteronomy 8:7 (Today's New International Version)Today's New International Version (TNIV)© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills;
In the "Culture of Heaven" reflection of August 6th I alluded to a past struggle with forgiveness. In case it’s an encouragement to anyone else, here is how that struggle was resolved.
It was October 2002 and I had gone to England to visit my mother, father and brother Robert. I had taken Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” to read while there. I was planning to lead a study on the book at our cell group when I got back to Canada. God used that visit to give me an object lesson on grace and I found myself failing the test in the worst way.
Dad at 81 had a drinking problem that had defined our family relationships for all of my life and it wasn’t getting any better. That visit was tough.
I wrote in my journal of October 2nd 2002:
“I went out with Robert in the morning and said out loud the terrible thing I had carried in my heart these past days. I asked him, did he ever feel like he was waiting for Dad to die, because I did. He didn’t really answer, I think I may have shocked him, and as we walked around the B & Q, the big DIY warehouse store, the words once out, were not, I realized, really true, and I repented of even thinking that about poor Dad. It is just so hard to see the existence he and Mum have, which seems so joyless at times, although I realize that value and joy in life is not for me to measure for someone else. I’m thankful that I was able to say to Robert how I felt at that moment though. Awful though it was to say something like that, I needed to say it out loud for the thought to be exposed to the light and die, and Robert at least understands.”
God did to help me completely forgive my father at last. All I had done was flirt with forgiveness before. Every time I thought I had laid down my anger, it always came back, seeping through like a stubborn old stain through a coat of paint.
October 5th, 2002:
"I feel that I have finally worked it all through, with the aid of Robert's good listening ear. How ironic and yet right it is that I should be reading Philip Yancey's book. On a long walk yesterday I internalized and applied the principle I had known in my head, that our forgiveness depends on our forgiveness of others. I accepted fully that we are all guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness.I thought about the account in the gospels, of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus wrote in the sand with a stick and one by one the condemning men surrounding her left.Some speculate that he wrote the names of common sins. If that is true, I am sure he didn't quantify them, "a little," or "a lot," but simply the named the sin; and his words were, "He that is without sin, let him throw the first stone." ”Without sin,” I am not, and yet my hands have been full of stones since I got here. Please forgive me Lord. I lay them down - in fact they dropped from my tightly clenched hands yesterday, from fingers loosened by your grace. Dearest, precious Lord, how could I ever have led that study on Philip Yancey's book without this time away? Well, I could have led it, but it would have been as a hypocrite, whether I knew it or not. I feel incredibly light and free."
Less than one month into 2003, my father died. I'm so grateful for the gift of the complete forgiveness and grace God gave me before that. Recognizing and acknowledging the level playing field we all stand on when it comes to sin, enabled me to talk to Dad about God from a place of humility, as a fellow sinner, but saved by grace. I had many signs, which I cherish, that he made his peace with God before he died.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for teaching me that we are all debtors to grace. How easy it is to forget that we are when we’re judging others. I thank you for the gentle tutelage of the Holy Spirit, for your mercy and love.