21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.".......Matthew 18:21-22
I'm kind of curious--Have any of you ever said to someone else: "I'll never forgive you for that!!" or "I don't know how I'll ever forgive that person for what they've done to me." or "How could you have done that--I'll never forgive you!" or anything similar? Have you thought that to yourself? I know that I have.
In order for me to even address the subject of forgiveness, I'm going to tell you a little bit more about myself. Perhaps some of you who know me or have read previous posts at warmharte already know this. But, bear with me, please.
This is going to be personal, somewhat heart rending for me.
First--a little background:
My own father passed away when I was 8 years old. My brother was 13 years old at this time. My mother returned to work full time, and my grandmother lived with us--preparing meals and doing the majority of the household chores. I spent the majority of my time alone.
My father had been ill with a chronic kidney disease ever since I could remember. I don't have too many memories of him because he was in and out of the hospital most of the time during these years. This illness is hereditary, and my brother has the same disease--polycystic kidney disease. He had over 1/2 of his left kidney removed when he was 2 years old and has since had a kidney transplant.
I never understood, at that age, why my father had been taken from me. I didn't understand the severity of his illness. I wasn't allowed to visit him in the hospital due to age restrictions at that time. I just know that I came home from school one day, and my mother told me--"Your father has gone to Heaven to live with Jesus."
I don't know if I truly understood at that time--I don't really remember.
My mother remarried when I was 12 years old--a wonderful man that was good to me--a man that I was proud to call "Dad". Along with my new Dad, I acquired a new sister and a new brother. And we became a new family.
However, there were still a lot of questions left unanswered in my mind. I had been sexually molested by a stranger in a parking lot when I was 9. Nothing was done about this after I told my mother. In my family, the rule was: "If you don't talk about it, it never happened."
As I became a little older, my cousin began sexually molesting me. I didn't tell anyone because in my mind, if nothing had been done before, nothing would be done this time.
Finally, time for high school!! And this was a time for partying, a time for fun, a time for drinking. I look back now and wonder how I ever managed to graduate from high school, much less be accepted into a college.
Off to college--more partying, more drinking. I had also met someone--a man almost 5 years older than me. We married when I was barely 20 years old with the total blessings of my parents. I think they thought an older person may have a settling effect on me. And, it did--for a while We were married for 4 years when he decided that he no longer loved me, no longer wanted me in his life.
I left, moved into an apartment and the REAL partying began. I met my second husband in a bar. I met him, took him home with me, and he never left. We married when we found that I was pregnant. We were both happy about this, and my son was born! I stopped partying while I was pregnant, but after my son was born, I slowly starting drifting back into this phase--not as much as before--but still doing more than my fair share.
Less than 2 years later, my first daughter was born. Again, I stopped partying during the pregnancy and then slowly began again. Then, another two years--my second daughter was born.
During this pregnancy, my husband had a snowmobile accident. He fractured 5 ribs on one side and was in a lot of pain. The doctor he was seeing prescribed pain medication which he liked just a little too much. His use of this increased to the point that he was taking 16-18 pills of narcotics every day--just to get through the day.
I, in the meantime, had looked one evening at my children sleeping, and the question came to me that if something happened, right at that moment, if something happened to one of them, would I be able to handle it? Would I be able to drive this child of mine to the hospital if need be? And my answer was an emphatic "NO". I stopped partying then and there and have never gone back to this lifestyle.
On my husband's part, however, his addiction into pain medication deepened. Then, very suddenly, the doctor who was prescribing him medication retired from medical practice. Left without a supplier of his drugs, he turned to heroin.
My children grew and my anger and resentment grew. I became a very bitter and angry person. Finally, he decided to seek help in a rehab. Then, out of the rehab, clean for 5-6 months, and then back to drug use again. This occurred 5-6 times until finally I could stand no more. During this time, I also suffered from a very deep depression which required two hospitalizations.
And an important factor here, is that I told no one, absolutely no one. I was ashamed of what my life had become.
I called my brother early one morning and spilled out the whole mess, crying, sobbing to him. Both my brothers and my sister and their spouses moved me and my two daughters not long after that. My son decided to stay with his father. He was almost 17 by this time, and I think that he thought he could "fix" him. About 6 months later, my son came to me and asked if he could live with me. He could take no more.
I was still bitter and angry, full of resentment.. Then my husband came to me, telling me that he was clean. And I made a very big mistake--I took him back. No, he wasn't clean from drugs. Yes, he was clean from heroin, but he was addicted to crack.
Crack--the drug that is even worse than heroin. Crack brings out the paranoia and violence in a person. That person will do anything just to get the next fix. And violence prevailed in my household. My youngest daughter's saving account was emptied, there was no money to pay our bills, and we were in danger of being evicted.
I was again in a deep depression--not thinking rationally, and I decided that the only way out of this mess was to take my own life. I was tired, worn, anxiety-filled and basically unable to function. I took every sedative that had been prescribed for me plus all the blood pressure medication I had on hand.
My son found me and took me to the hospital. I remember the ride in the elevator, to the Toxicology Unit--the head of this unit riding with me--electrodes attached to my chest with a portable defibrillator next to me on my stretcher. The doctor said to me, "You are an intensive care case waiting to happen."
I was placed in a room with a glass wall facing the hallway. I was to be on a 24 hour suicide watch. There were orders written for each and every thing that could occur due to the amount of drugs I had taken. During this night, I lay awake--just laying there with an empty mind. And sometime during that night, I heard a voice say to me, "What are you doing?" Just a gentle whisper. I looked through my glass wall at the nurse assigned to me. She had said nothing.
And then again, the whisper, "What are you doing?"
I didn't know, I just didn't know what I was doing. I was thinking that I couldn't stand the violence, the lies, the addictions, the constant fear in which I was living. I loved my children so much. Why was I planning on leaving them alone with this mess?
The amazing thing is that nothing happened--my blood pressure didn't drop dangerously low, my pulse rate didn't drop and I didn't fall asleep from all the sedatives. I was awake all night long.
I know now that God intervened in this attempt of mine to take my own life. He, clearly, had bigger and better purposes for my life.
The doctors were amazed and could not understand when the next morning I was perfectly fine and discharged to home. I didn't want to go home--the place where all the violence and fear was, but I had no where else to go.
And then, another rehab--but during this rehab, I made arrangements and left again. Still so angry, so full of hatred towards this man for what he had done to our family.
During this time, I met someone--someone new to my work. She always seemed so peaceful and calm, even in the midst of turmoil--still remained peaceful. I watched her, listened to her--wondering what she had in her life that made her this way.
One day she invited me to her church. I told her I couldn't come because I had no church clothes. She said that was okay, this was a very casual church--you didn't need "church clothes". I stood her up that first Sunday--just didn't show.
She didn't chastise me for this--just said we'll try again next week.
The next week, I went to church with her, and I knew that I had come home. Jesus touched me that day and started a long and painful healing process for me. The message that day was on God's love for each and every one of us--regardless of who we are, what we have done in our past. He is there with us always--waiting for us with open arms, waiting for me to come to Him so that He could give me the gifts He had waiting for me--His unconditional love--love like I had never known before; forgiveness of my past, a future full of hope, joy and peace, the gift of an eternity spent with Jesus. All I had to do was accept and receive these gifts from Him. Nothing else--just believe, accept and receive in faith. And I did.
I was still wondering how in the world I was supposed to forgive my now ex-husband and forgive myself for my past, for all the mean and hateful things I had said to him in anger, for all the mean and hateful things I had said to my mother and my father.
But, God took me by the hand and led me. God is very patient with me, and I am so grateful for this. Sometimes, I took three steps forward and two steps backward, falling. And, God would pick me up, and we would start again.
Slowly, so slowly, I began to forgive. I realized that all the anger, all the bitterness, all the resentment were not hurting my ex-husband at all. The only person they were hurting was me. I was the one being eaten alive by these powerful emotions.
As I grew in God's love, I began to leave these emotions behind me, and I forgave my ex-husband and also myself. I know that Jesus lived, suffered and died for me so that I could have this forgiveness, not just for myself but to extend this to others also--as many times as needed.
In this place of forgiveness, I have turned from a bitter, angry resentful person into a person who is peaceful and calm. Do I have days where I am upset by something, feel discouraged, feel angry? Of course, I do. But, I now know that I can turn to my Lord with these problems and emotions, and He is there for me--to listen to me, to take my problems and worries from me. He is in control of my life because I have given my life to Him.
Today I am thankful--thankful for God's unconditional love for each and every one of us, thankful that He watches over me every moment of my life, and I am thankful that He has given me His Son, Jesus, to follow as an example in my own life. Through Jesus, I have learned the grace needed to give others. So much grace and forgiveness has been granted to me through Jesus. When I think and compare what Jesus did for me, for all of us--I am only being asked to extend a very small portion of grace and forgiveness to others.