I started to write this article last week and, as usual, life got in the way and I didn’t get far with it. What I found on Sunday was there was a reason. As I prepared for my children’s ministry I realized that the readings and Gospel were about … forgiveness. Too much to be a coincidence … when God wants to give you a message, He really makes sure that you get it!
With all the scandals, people are angry. I know reading the news and commentary can get me more than a little hot under the collar. Worrying about being spied upon, our government trampling on the Constitution, taking away our rights. Just one would be enough to get anyone angry. All of them together? Sometimes it takes me days to calm down.
Don’t get me wrong, righteous anger is never a bad thing, and using it for change is good. There are situations where holding onto anger, especially between family members, can be bad for you. Letting it go before it’s too late is good advice.
Father’s Day can be difficult for me. I lost my father almost 5 years ago and I miss him a lot. He was a smart man, a man of honor who had a definite sense of right and wrong. Things were black and white to him, gray areas few and far between. He provided well for us, we didn’t want for what we needed, but didn’t always get everything we wanted. He had a strong work ethic and high expectations for his children.
He wasn’t perfect, and for reasons I won’t hash over here, we had a difficult relationship. I was angry with him for a long time. Many people told me that I had to forgive him for the things that had hurt me, but how could I forgive him? He never said “I’m sorry”? I had to hear those words before I could even think of forgiving him. I’m stubborn. Yeah, I get it from my dad, too!
My father died after a year long illness. When he got sick, I knew that holding onto anger wasn’t going to help anyone, mostly myself. I knew that I had to forgive him right then, regardless of whether he said I’m sorry, because he wasn’t going to be with us that much longer. If I didn’t do it I’d never get the chance. There was still a small part of me that said “Yeah, but he hasn’t apologized!” But I knew I’d be angry forever if I didn’t let it go.
See, that’s the crux of it. I had to do it for me. What I found was that it wasn’t just for me. My offer of unsolicited forgiveness helped him, too. My dad never did say “I’m sorry”… in words … and in the end it didn’t matter. I didn’t need the words, the actions spoke volumes.