Sunday, February 24, 2008
I had confided the painful story of my father to my friend. My parents separated bitterly when I was in high school. My father turned against his three sons. He circulated a letter of vicious lies in town to destroy our reputations and moved to Canada to avoid paying child support. I last saw my father in 1964, when I was sixteen. After that, I spoke with him only twice. The last time, he claimed he was not my father and threatened to harm me if I ever contacted him again. Years later, in 1990, I learned that my father had died--and changed his last name! It was now 1993. My friend knew my pain. In a gentle way we debated our subject over the phone. Citing Jesus' words, "if there is repentance, you must forgive," I clung to my anger and the reverse idea that Christians need not forgive, when there is no repentance. My friend and I had debated this issue before. Finally, in this conversation he said, "Here's what I'm concerned about. What happens to me when I don't forgive?" This time his words struck me. Beyond my clinging to any proof text, his words spoke to my soul.My journey included prayer, self-reflection, sharing my journey with others, and my desire to be freed from re-living these nightmares of my past. Above all, I trusted our God of love and forgiveness to go with me, no matter how arduous my journey. Weeks passed into months. Slowly my intense anger began to cool. Finally, after more than two years, a day came when I realized I no longer bore ill will toward my father. With God's help, I had forgiven him! I still considered his actions to be wrong. But even so, what a difference! After all those years of simmering anger, I had come to a place where I felt a real sense of peace with my father's memory--and myself! This experience touched my life and faith deeply.
meditation: Dr. Douglas Showalter