We had built a new home, and to us, it was beautiful. Foolishly, we had had creamy white carpet placed in the front living room. The kids and the dog would eventually wear it down, but not today, I thought. It was our first day in the house. My husband beamed with pride as he welcomed his mother at the front door. That December had been warm and instead of snow we’d gotten rain. Our front sidewalk was a bridge from the driveway to the front porch with black mud bordering the path; the sod wouldn’t arrive until spring. As my mother-in-law entered, I could see that she had walked through the mud. She paused on the linoleum in the entryway, looked up as if to see my reaction, then stepped out and walked across our new, pristine carpet. My heart sank. My husband raised his voice and told her to “halt!” She did. We moved into maintenance mode and began to treat four spots of muddy foot prints, but one print wouldn’t completely disappear. Over the years, I’ve tried different treatments, but that one spot remains stubborn.
Recently, we began looking at new flooring and that spot has been brought to my attention again. I’ve wondered if my mother-in-law’s actions were just neglectful or motivated by jealousy. Neither is a good thing, but I’ve always felt that she did it on purpose, and believing that has made it more hurtful. A decade has passed, and yet when I notice that spot, I still feel pangs of hurt.
I’ve been carrying this offense, real or imagined, for far too long. In Matthew 6:14-15 it says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you. But, if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” YIKES! I know I need God’s forgiveness, but truthfully, I don’t want to forgive my mother-in-law. That spot on the carpet has represented all the times she contradicted me in public, every time she wrongfully blamed me, every time she showed up late to my dinners, every time she said hurtful words picking at my children or twisted words I had said when repeating them to my husband, causing conflict. I have had a reason to not want to forgive.
Last night Mark 11:25 caught my attention. It says, “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Oh dear! I’ve been holding a grudge. Did she behave badly? Yes, repeatedly. But this verse tells me that God wants me to let go and give it to him. Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 say, “Honor your father and mother and you will live a long, full life.” It doesn’t say we have to like their behavior or join in their behavior, it says to honor them — in other words, act respectfully.
Today, I’m letting go of the emotions I’ve attached to the spot on my carpet. I should have let go a long time ago. But, today, I choose to forgive my mother-in-law and ask God to forgive me for holding a grudge against her.
Do you have an in-law that has tested your grace? Are you holding hurt feelings against them, too? Let’s give our hurts to God and forgive.
Photo from Flikr – Horia Varlan, photographer