I have forgiven people lots of times. Jesus said 7 times 70 right? And sometimes it takes that many. I’m sure I’ve been forgiven even more. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten pretty good at this forgiveness thing, but there are some times when forgiveness is really tough.
The last time I spoke to my dad, it was actually to his answering machine. We were planning to leave for the mission field soon and we had just discovered that our baby’s heart had stopped beating in the womb. My wife delivered little Samuel with no first breath to follow and we began planning the funeral.
I debated long and hard whether to call my father to invite him to the funeral. The last time we had seen each other, I had basically had to throw him out of my house. We had never had much of a relationship, though I had sincerely tried since reaching adulthood and certainly since having children. I wanted them to know their grandfather and I held out hope that he would be redeemed through forgiveness and a relationship with the next generation. Nothing else had worked.
On that day, with my children in the room, my father lost control once again…and all the dysfunction I had grown up with came crashing home again. I made a quick decision but one that I really haven’t regretted…well…maybe once. I decided in that moment that my children needed to be protected. That they would not grow up the way I had…and I made my father leave our house.
The one day that I regretted that decision was the day I called him on the phone. I thought once again how sad it would be for the man to never know that Samuel had lived, albeit only in the womb, or that he had died. So I called him on the phone and got the answering machine. I left a message and told him about the funeral. Part of me hoped he would show up and that finally we could begin an adult relationship based upon truth rather than the distorted view of my childhood he liked to remember. But he didn’t show up. It seems he really didn’t care.
Just a few weeks ago, I discovered that my father died while I was in China. And no one let me know about it so I could pay my last respects…whatever those are. None of my siblings knew either. Apparently he wanted it that way…or that’s the word that has been passed along through a cousin. At this point in the story things could be worse I suppose. I could write the next paragraph about the many regrets I have that I didn’t try to reach out “just one more time.” Except I really don’t have any.
What I do have…still lingering in the back of my heart…is some regret that I didn’t find real forgiveness while he was living. I wanted him to be sorry. To be in a place to receive my forgiveness…to want my forgiveness. I hope he’s in such a place now. I wish I knew for sure. Either way, I’ve got to forgive him so that I don’t carry that burden nor pass it along to my children. I think I can do it…7 times 70…but you know, forgiveness is really tough sometimes.