Before we move on to the final song of this series, I feel compelled to share just one more thing on HAPPYLOVE. Beating a dead horse? Maybe! But, let’s just call it an interlude.
As I shared last time, the chorus of LOVEHAPPY caused me to reflect on God’s love and forgiveness. It also caused me to evaluate my ability to extend this same love and forgiveness to others.
Saturday, July 7th, marked the four year anniversary of my biological father’s death. Now, I don’t say biological to give you the impression that I don’t claim him. I do. I love Troy Conner dearly, but boy, “did he do some things to me.” I won’t divulge into all the details, but in short, his presence in my life was inconsistent and when he was present, he was often drunk.
My dad struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. And as you can imagine, this severely crippled his ability to be the father I needed and wanted him to be. It wasn’t until I was about 26 years old that my father finally gained freedom from this debilitating habit. When he did, he came calling. And yo, did this dude call! A LOT! Though I had always longed for the attention and pursuit of my father, I wasn’t ready. I mean, in my mind, I was like…
“I’m 26, I don’t need no daddy no more. I’m grown.
Plus, I’ve like already been to counseling to deal with ALL of my daddy wounds. 🙄
Chapter closed. ”
Bruh, was I so naïve, so childish, all kinds of low key petty, and definitely still significantly hurt.
And though I would’ve considered myself to be spiritually mature, it was clear I wasn’t mature enough to extend to my remorseful father a LOVE that was deeper than his pain.
I wasn’t able to look beyond my expectations of what a father should be and see his humanity, his brokenness, or his need for God to intervene in his life and heal him.
Anger and bitterness was deeply rooted in my heart. So much so, that I didn’t pray for him. I never prayed for my father to be delivered from alcoholism.
My pain blinded me from his.
Though I don’t know all the reasons why my dad clung so closely to the bottle, it was clear that he was trying to numb his pain. What I understand now is that his absence had nothing to do with whether or not I was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, or any other kind of enough. I wish I knew at 26, what I know now because when my dad came calling and asking for forgiveness, I offered him a mean stiff arm.
Beloved, have you ever been so filled with anger and bitterness towards someone? Are you currently withholding forgiveness from someone who has remorsefully asked for it? If so, may I offer three suggestions that might help you move towards forgiveness?
(1) Consider how it’s not about you. I know you’re hurt. And, I imagine, rightly so. However, here’s the thing about pain, it can make you extremely self-centered. Think about it. When any part of your body is severely hurt, usually all you can think about is the pain. It’s all you feel. Forgiveness often requires a measure of self-forgetfulness. It requires being able to look up and out of your pain to see the humanity and brokenness of the other person. This will likely help you to cultivate a posture of compassion towards them, which leads me to my next point...
(2) Choose Christ-like compassion. When I remember that the person who hurt me was born into sin just like me, it helps me to extend compassion towards them. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18 of a man who owed his master a debt that he couldn’t pay back. This man fell on his face, begged his master to not put him in jail, and promised to pay back everything he owed. The master had compassion on his servant. So much so, that forgave his debt. However, the next thing this joka does is go out looking for a fellow servant that owes him a lesser debt. And when he finds this fellow servant, he hems him up in a corner and chokes him! He fails to extend the same kind of compassion that his master extended to him.
I remember the first time I truly saw the meaning of this passage. After initially being judgemental of the servant, the Holy Spirit convicted me by showing me a picture of my dad hemmed up in a corner with my hands around his neck. (Yeah, true story. It's an ugly picture.)
Then the Lord brought my attention to the words, “fellow servant.” My dad was made of the same stuff as me. Sin. He was broken just as I am broken. And just as I need compassion, so did he. When I was able to see I wasn’t quite that different from my dad and reflect on the mercy God has had on me, the anger and bitterness in my heart began to melt. How could I not extend compassion towards him?
(3) Reflect on God’s love for you. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 103. In verses 8-10, David reminds himself of the gracious character of God.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and rich in faithful love,
He will not always accuse us
Or be angry forever.
He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
Or repaid us according to our offenses.
One morning, reflecting on these words led to a self evaluation.
Yana, you can be kinda quick to anger.
As a matter of fact, you stay holding grudges.
You often deal with people according to what you believe their sins deserve.
And although it’s subtle, you definitely repay people back according to their offense.
OOOOUCCCCH! But, it was true...it is true. I struggle to forgive. It’s not my jam. However, when I reflect on God’s love and forgiveness, not only does it convict me but it also inspires me. For years, I tried to “just forgive” my father because it was commanded in Scripture. But, it was through reflecting on God’s love for me that helped me to forgive my father and pursue reconciliation.
Now, these three things may seem like an oversimplification. And in some cases, it might be. For those whose story is marked by abuse and significant pain, your process towards forgiveness may be more nuanced. And if you have not honestly dealt with your pain, I would suggest starting there, with your pain. Cry out to God. Don’t try to rush your way to forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard! You’re in process.
I’m thankful to say that just two months before my dad passed, we were able to reconcile. It took a few key sermons, a whole lotta counseling, and the help of a few trusted friends to get me there. However, Iet me keep it all the way 💯 with you, I still struggle with forgiveness. I constantly have to go back to these three things and more when someone hurts me. Just like you, I’m in process. Yet, I’m trusting that He who began this sanctifying work in me, will indeed conform me into the image of our compassionate and forgiving Christ. I'm also certain He will do it for you.
A helpful resource on forgiveness: Forgiveness:Breaking the Power of the Past by Kay Authur