(Today) Saturday, April 19; 10:00 am
Egg hunt and baby animals on the green
followed by “BYO” picnic lunch on the church grounds
I wonder how often others forgive me for my long list of shortcomings. Are my “TOP 10 LIFE OFFENSES” events that I even recognize or remember? Flipped around, how often do I let things go and forgive? Forgiveness has been a hard and unnatural lesson on loving my neighbor, a beautiful blessing that I have worked to claim and had to practice and repeat in order to finally understand. Though long a stumbling block in my faith journey, I believe forgiveness is God’s gift to our spirit, a lifting and freeing of burdens we sometimes do not know we carry.
In March of 2012, my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After 35 years of chronic alcoholism, lung cancer was the last way I expected Dad to go. He left this world on June 19, 2013, the last six weeks or so spent sober. Our relationship had been hard for all the years I remember, and if anyone had told me that I would give a eulogy at Dad’s funeral, I would have laughed. Yet, I did just that, and the topic was, “What I learned of the Father from my father.” I share the last part:
The final lesson Dad taught is one of reconciliation and forgiveness. This one has been the most important – and life-changing. Every family has its issues, and ours did too. For all of the light and laughter that Dad brought, a light that would not go out no matter how much darkness was also part of the equation, life was at times quite hard. The last decade or so had much distance in our relationship. I believe God plants in us a need for our fathers, both our earthly and heavenly fathers. When things are not right there, no matter how right just about everything else in life is, balance is hard to come by. Years of Bible study, years of praying for Dad to change, all kinds of stuff, I was still carrying anger toward my earthly father. I would give it to God, and then pick it back up again – a repetitive cycle of disobedience that I am guessing some of you can relate to. About three years ago, God moved my immovable heart, helping me to let go and find forgiveness of the past, present, and whatever would come. It was a big smack in my dense head when I finally accepted that if I wanted God’s grace, if I wanted to be forgiven for all of my shortcomings, if I believed that Jesus really took it all to the cross for me, I could not withhold forgiveness, especially for someone as important to me as Dad. God was not answering that my father would change, but that my heart would. It sounds so simple, but it was the hardest thing I have ever had to work through.
When Hospice indicated Dad had five or six weeks left, my husband found me sitting in a chair on our patio crying. While forgiveness had come several years before, knowing that Dad’s time was short and still desperately wanting and needing his blessing in my life, I cried, “He is going to die and I am not going to get anything that I need from him. I am not going to get that he loves me, that he is proud of me, that he is sorry for how hard some of his choices made life.” My heart ached. The next day as I sat in Dad’s room talking about his oldest grandchild, soon to graduate from high school, Dad said, “You must be proud of her,” and I said I was. Dad then said, “I am proud of her too. And I am proud of you.” I began to weep. Over the course of the next 45 minutes my earthly father told me that he loved me. He told me that he had done some really bad things in his life. I agreed that he had done bad things and reminded him of the good things that he had done, that he had taken me to church and given me an education, two things that changed my life. I reminded him of forgiveness, most importantly God’s forgiveness of him. I was able to tell him how much God loved him and that grace and the cross were all-sufficient in covering him.
As my dad sat with tears streaming down his face at the possibility of God’s forgiveness, my earthly father taught me what would be his final lesson, and my heavenly Father healed the darkest place in my heart. God has the ability, no matter the circumstance, to bring the most beautiful light out of even the darkest, hardest places. What a gift.
Prayer: Lord God, forgive my stubborn and disobedient heart. Help me seek the love and light you offer through Jesus. Holy Spirit, move my heart ever toward forgiveness that I may see and claim your blessing anew. Amen.
Lift in prayer today
People in need of assurance
that Jesus has risen from the dead and will bring them new life