Forgiveness is a lesson that I did not learn right away. Growing up in an exceptionally abusive home, my mind allowed for forgiveness for certain actions, but not all. The abuse that I endured at the hands of my parents was on the list of things I would never forgive.
When I first began going to church regularly, I participated in a Bible study that encouraged people to forgive anyone who had ever done wrong to them. At the time, my heart was hard and I recall stating with some venom, “There are some things that are unforgivable.” People disagreed with this line of thought, of course, but fortunately I had a church family that was willing to meet me where I was at.
Many of the people came alongside me to help me grow. I was told at one point to tell God, “I choose to forgive.” I refused on the grounds that it was a lie. I would think about that quite often in the coming months, though. I began to pray for God to change my heart so that I could come to a place where forgiveness for my parents was possible. Every time I thought about my parents, I would pray for the ability to forgive. Finally, I came to Luke 7:47, which changed my life. The portion of that verse that states that “…he who has been forgiven little loves little” was pivotal in my growth and my ability to forgive my parents.
I began to think that my parents must not have been forgiven much at all in their lives and that I was just one more person standing in judgment, not releasing them from their burdens. God had softened my heart enough that this verse struck me with such force that I immediately wept. Although my mother had passed away when I was nineteen, my father was still alive. In August 2011, I sent him a letter. I told him that I forgave him for everything and hoped he would find peace and happiness in his life.
I never heard back from him, yet each time a negative thought about my parents would pop into my head, I would think about the aforementioned verse and remember the forgiveness I had given.
In July 2012, my older brother told me that my dad was dying from lung cancer. However, I did not attempt to see him, as he was staying at my younger brother’s house, and my brother and I had not talked in well over a decade.
My younger brother hated me and there was nothing that I could do about that outside of praying. At that point, I had been praying for God to soften my younger brother’s heart for more than two years. I knew it was possible because God had softened my own heart, but I did not think it was probable.
I received a call from my older brother on August 17, 2012. He told me that our dad wanted to see me and that I was to come to my younger brother’s house the next day at noon. I prayed like a warrior before I arrived at my younger brother’s house. I feared that I would be verbally attacked by whoever was there because I had been so completely absent from my dad’s life and was not on good terms with him. I prayed for God to give me strength as I faced this difficult time and entered the house.
I had just been directed to my dad’s room when other visitors arrived. I endured the looks from people that indicated that I should not be there and waited patiently in the background. Once everyone was out of the room, I asked my dad if he had gotten my letter from the previous year. He said that he never read it because his girlfriend threw it away when it came in the mail. I told him what the letter had said. I did not want him to think that he was being forgiven because he was sick. I wanted him to know that he had been forgiven before I knew he was sick.
My younger brother’s heart was still hard toward me, but my sister-in-law invited me and my son to stay for as long as we wanted as my dad succumbed to cancer. Throughout the next few days, hearts were softened and I was able to pray over my dad before he died. I prayed for Jesus to welcome him home and for his soul to be saved. I found tenderness for my dad in those few short days that I had not thought possible. I read to him and told him jokes in an effort to keep his spirits up.
My older brother was there, too, and his presence gave me comfort. God softened my younger brother’s heart and we were eventually able to talk about things and exchange stories. Very soon we were laughing together and the hardness slipped away. Our dad passed away ten short days after I had first arrived. God had done in ten days what I thought was fairly impossible. My relationship with my younger brother was completely restored in ten days. Not only did I have my younger brother back in my life, but I had my sister-in-law, a nephew, and three nieces I was getting to know better.
God took an exceptionally tragic situation and blessed me through it. That event increased my faith and I have been a praying woman ever since. I have learned in subsequent months that God’s blessings extend far beyond the limits we humans place on them. God is good all the time and he gives good gifts.
Is there a person or circumstance in your life you need to choose to forgive?
Carol Battista is the single parent of an eleven-year-old son who has a passion for science and loves nature. Carol, her son, and their chihuahua hunker down indoors during the winter months but become more active during the warm weather. Carol is involved in two Bible studies and volunteers within her church, while her son participates in their church youth group there. Carol is currently working on one book, with plans for a second book. It is her hope that her writing will bring glory to God and that it will help others who have struggled to grow closer to God as well.