The mother and daughter had not been together, had not communicated for years.
She said “this,” and “this” hurt to the bone.
In response, she said and did “this” and “that” and the rest is 12 years of a difficult, hurt filled history.
A lot of life can be lived in 12 years, enough to make mother and daughter virtual strangers in neighboring small towns.
There were times when the daughter wanted to reach out, but something prevented her from acting on that longing.
From time to time the birthday card was addressed and once or twice the card was actually stamped, but never sent.
Then there were the kids. Yes, three of them were born.
The explanation was “Yes, you have a grandma, but she is not around here.”
That seemed to work for a while, but the kids soon noticed the empty look and the longing.
The reality is that people are not intended to live out estranged relationships. Not everyone is destined to be in a close relationship with everyone in their life. That just is not possible. However, we are meant to live in fellowship, in relationships of love and respect. That does from time call for people to overlook, dismiss or even ignore the hurt and pain caused by another. This concept is called forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something someone can do on their own. It is a power much bigger than ourselves that inspires forgiveness. It is much easier, and many times more satisfying to hold on and to allow the hurt and pain to build to a crescendo that will cause us to act out and seek to inflict usually more pain than was inflicted upon us. Forgiveness acknowledges that hurt was done, that pain as inflicted, but forgiveness walks away from the right to revenge.
For mom and daughter, this realization finally came. It was at the funeral of the mother’s father, the daughter’s grandfather. With grief filling the room, the daughter walked in and straight to the casket. Alone, and sobbing, she felt a light and tender touch. Turning, she saw a face she hadn’t seen in years. It was her mother. The face hadn’t changed except the anger that filled her eyes 12 years ago, was now replaced with a gentle longing. The mother stood admiring the three children, assuming that she was their missing grandmother.
There they stood in an unlikely embrace with 12 years of regret pushing them apart whispering why do this now. While an unknown future was pulling them together. Shouting, “If not now, when?” Then it was offered. Strangely enough neither can remember saying it, but both accepted the “I am sorry.” Perhaps it was heart speaking to heart.
My question is; why would someone not want to forgive? Un-forgiveness is a selfish act. Un-forgiveness only has self as a primary interest, that’s why forgiveness takes more than any one person has to offer.
The writer of Proverbs had an interesting way of talking about forgiveness without actually using the word.
21 If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he's thirsty, bring him a drink.
22 Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and GOD will look after you.
Proverbs 25:21-22 (MSG)
21 If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
22 You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.
Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)
I posted two translations of the same verse. Most translations develope the analogy of heaping coals of judgment on the head of the offender. While the analogy is accurate, it totally misses the spirit of the passage that Eugene Peterson correctly captures.
In the days when Proverbs was written, it was common practice that if your fire went out, they would borrow burning coals from their neighbor. It was a way to warm yourself and endear yourself to your neighbor by a good deed. Forgiveness is offered so that we can live more peacefully with each other. Actually doing good, when revenge is expected or anticipated, sows seeds of goodwill and healing. That’s forgiveness!
What happened with the mother and daughter? They are repairing; no repairing is not the word. They are rebuilding a relationship from the ground up. This time forgiveness is the foundation. It seems they desperately want to avoid the bitter cold that results from a hard and unforgiving heart. They long for the warmth of a love that grows from the difficult work of forgiveness.