I’d like to tell you a story.
A tale that has taken a long time to find it’s ending, but with its ending sparks a new beginning. No, I’m not talking about my journey to faith. No, I’m not talking about starting the university walk. I’m talking about something much more important, much more difficult. Much more personal.
Over the past two months, I have felt that my family has simply been breaking apart. That none of us were close, nobody cared and nobody loved. I’ve had this feeling before but it has been at its most poignant moment recently; say the past three weeks or so, due to a number of reasons and that’s another blog post. Maybe.
My family is a bit strange, an odd mix and we haven’t really been a family for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sisters with everything I have and I would do anything for them and I hope that’s how they feel about me, but parentally we haven’t been okay. I’ve been the mum figure to my sisters from when I was about five years old. Then about two years ago, I had to become the dad figure too.
I say I had to, I wanted to because he wasn’t going to be a dad figure anymore. He hurt me in ways nobody ever could, his words cut so deep and his actions could never be undone.
I haven’t talked to my dad in about two years.
And for a long time, I’ve wanted to forgive him. I’ve wanted to forgive him so we can move on and have an adult Father/Daughter relationship but there was something stopping me. I’ve been wanting to forgive him since January when our church Rector spoke at a CU main meeting and God said to me, it’s time to forgive your dad. Obviously at the time I said no, I wasn’t in a place to forgive him or even want to forgive him, but my heart desperately wanted to. And the journey from January until May has been full of ups and downs.
Then last night at church, something monumental happened.
I hadn’t paid attention to the title of the sermon, all I knew was that it was the Curate preaching. I went to church like ‘yeah, my relationship with God is good’ but three worship songs in, I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t engage. I couldn’t say the confessional prayer, I wasn’t listening to the intercession prayers…what was going on?
Then the sermon started. And the tears followed. I can’t remember exactly but things got to me, things about God being the perfect father and that we shouldn’t project our own experiences of our father onto Him. There was other stuff that made my face leak but God wasn’t done.
At the end of the sermon, the Curate got the congregation to stand and I stood with my arms tightly crossed against my chest because I was miffed off and just wanted to get out.
This is where it gets weird.
The Curate said that he felt God wanted people in the congregation to uncross their arms. Maybe not physically, but spiritually. I didn’t want to uncross my arms: at all. However in no control of my own, I so very slowly began to uncross my arms. It was uncomfortable, unwanted and I was highly unwilling.
This physical action was the beginning of God making sure I listened to Him, because His presence had been around me all evening but I had been ignoring it. I do that a lot. As I uncrossed my arms, I became open to God starting to work in my heart. As we continued in sung worship, I still couldn’t sing and when I can’t sing everyone knows something is up. There was one song in particular, and I can’t remember what it was, but it caused my face to leak properly. Not those tears that don’t really let loose, but I properly cried.
I never get prayer. It’s always felt like begging. If someone offers to pray for me, I’ll often turn them down or it’ll take me such a long time to figure out what I want prayer for. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate people praying for me but there is just something about it and I don’t know why…
At the end of the service last night, I wasn’t in a good position, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go for prayer. There was something within in me that was telling me to go for prayer, so I went, before I could talk myself out of it. I climbed over the pew without telling anyone around me where I was going because I didn’t want them to do anything. My friends are lovely, but sometimes – doing things my way is the best way.
As I made my way to the prayer ministry team, I was bricking it. There is so much going on in my life that I didn’t know what I wanted prayer for; but when I was there with a lovely congregation member – I knew what it was. I needed and desperately wanted to forgive.
Describing my relationship to the lady who was going to pray for me caused me to cry all over again. It hurt, it really, really hurt. It hurts as I write this.
Before this lady started to pray for me, she told me a story. A story like the one I’m telling you. She told me a story about a lady who was imprisoned in a concentration camp with her family in World War Two; this person was a devout Christian. She made it out of the concentration camp and years later she was at a Christian gathering and saw one of the guards from the camp there. This guard had become a Christian but she didn’t know this at the time. The guard came over to her and asked for forgiveness. As you can tell, she didn’t want to forgive this man for all the hurt he had caused to her, her family and the thousands in that concentration camp. But she felt her hand moving up from her side to meet his hand. A sign of forgiveness.
This lady didn’t want to forgive this man but she did, because God willed it. The lady praying for me told me that forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. All I had to do was say the words and God would take it from there.
It hurt, it really hurt. All the pain, the anger, the distrust…it became a lighter burden.
Because I forgave him.
I said those words. It’s been a long journey, an end to that chapter in my life. And knowing that I’ve forgiven him and knowing it’s in God’s hands makes it easier.
Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing, and I just feel that you need to know that God wants you to forgive. He wants you to be happy and for your relationships to be strong. Be prayerful, be courageous and say those words. I still can’t quite comprehend that I’ve taken that step. Who knows where it goes from here but I’ve started another story.