“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”-Colossians 3:13*
I am the oldest of four children who grew up in the seventies and eighties. My sister and I were two and half years apart. There was a seven-year void and then my two brothers were born roughly two and half years apart. I followed the code of the oldest sibling and picked on my sister with all my ability. My two baby brothers were cute and fun, so I cuddled, coddled, and took care of them. I loved the era when I grew up; a time of innocence, dreams, and looking forward to the future.
Out of the four siblings, three of us still go home to our mom’s house, visit one another, make memories together, and watch our children grow up. My sister has chosen not to participate in our lives. You see, thirty-some years ago, my sister and dad had an argument over something near and dear to them (the rest of us can’t remember the details) and she chose to graduate from medical school and move up north to not be seen or heard from again. Not totally true. When my first husband, Scott, died she came back to Texas and made it clear to my parents, she was there to support me only during this difficult time. This was the last time I saw my sister. I have talked to her in the last few years on the phone and in e-mails. While our grandparents died one by one and dad was sick and passed away, I kept her up to date. Each time I reached out to her and asked, “Will you be at the funeral?” Her response was no, with an explanation.
The rest of my family is outraged by her lack of disregard for our family and rejecting involvement in our lives or us in hers. I understand why the family is hurt and angered by her rejection, yet I am not angry with her. Why? Believe me, I have other people in my life who have pushed me over the edge and I have spent years trying to forgive them.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines forgive as “to cease to feel resentment against”. I know when someone wrongs me there is resentment and sometimes it is deep, dark, and ugly. So how do I dig out of the pain and absolve it? I want to share three truths I have discovered in why I should forgive others.
- GOD EXPECTS ME TO FORGIVE. My role model of authority expects me to live by the same standards He demonstrates. God has forgiven us for our sin by the blood of Jesus. When I accept this truth I need to be as forgiving as my Father. Every time. I can’t pick and choose who I want to forgive.
- I AM NOT THE JUDGE. It is not my place to decide if someone is worthy of my forgiveness. They are PERIOD. This is where I have to ask God to change my heart towards a person and the situation and assist me in unburdening the hurt and accepting the healing of forgiving.
- FORGIVING RELEASES ME FROM BONDAGE. When I am angry at someone, I feel like a casualty of hurt feelings and vengeful thoughts. I don’t like the feeling of being a victim. When I can forgive another person, it lightens my load and allows me not to participate in the angry, poor me, pity party.
I don’t have a magic answer and I know my family thinks I am crazier than a tornado chaser (which I would love to do), but I have reflected and prayed over this situation. Grant it, I have not picked up the phone and tried to have an average conversation with my sister since our dad died over three years ago. If she called me tomorrow and asked for bone marrow or a kidney, I would be there to give and assist her in a heartbeat. I believe if I can forgive as God has forgiven me, the relationships which have been stunted due to my stubbornness of holding on to the resentment, can be changed. Forgiving others can open new doors to relational opportunities and transform the makeup of our own inner circles. I have a lot of forgiving left to do and hope my family, including my sister, can move towards peace and forgiveness in their own hearts.
* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society