There’s something preventing you from fully loving others. It is like a chain that holds you back.
I’ve had so many conversations with people in the last two weeks that left me with one thought in my mind…..unforgiveness. The common theme among the people I was talking to was not forgiving someone. Because these conversations have happened so many times in the last few weeks I knew that God is prompting me (not-so-subtly) to write about it. Along with my conversations, I heard a sermon about it, my devotions this morning was about forgiveness, and I got a text last night about it as well. Subtle or what? Sometimes I have a thick skull and when God wants to tell me something He needs to be repetitive so the message gets through!
It’s pretty clear in the Bible that we are commanded to forgive. Forgive others and ourselves. Both can be equally as hard. Jesus says in Matthew 6: 14-15 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
That is soooo much easier said than done. Some of the things that happen to us and to those we love are hard to forgive.
One issue that many foster parents and adoptive parents hold on to is abuse or neglect of children. We spend our lives sacrificing our needs for the needs of these children. Children who have been hurt, drugged, not fed, not cared for and abused by other people; often their birth parents. Then they come to us and we are tasked with the difficult job of helping the child heal, trust, love, and feel safe. Once they feel safe the emotions and behaviours often increase! They feel comfortable enough to let out their feelings. It’s a hard job and then Jesus asks us to forgive their parents. How do you forgive someone who has caused so much trauma? Yet that’s what we are called to do.
Foster and adoptive parents must learn to forgive those who hurt the child in order for the child to learn to do so. How will a child learn to forgive and let go of anger unless you teach them? How can you teach them if you’re holding onto your anger towards their birth family? It is a righteous anger no doubt. You have every reason to feel angry when you read the history of some kids or when they divulge some of the horrors that they experienced and you now have to listen to. People can do horrible things to others. Jesus gave His life for all of them. The worst child abuser may never repent and ask for forgiveness but we are asked to do our part and forgive them. It is for our sake we forgive not theirs. If we want to be forgiven for the million things we do wrong each week, we have to forgive those around us.
Mark 6:37 Jesus challenges his followers by saying; “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Doesn’t leave much wiggle room. It doesn’t go on to say, “but if it’s something really terrible then by all means remain angry and hateful forever.” It’s really clear. It’s also really hard to do.
What makes forgiveness easier? Doing it over and over. I find that as I age and have learned to forgive and let go of things, I get better at it. I have learned the freedom that comes with forgiveness. A weight lifted. An anger dissipated. A worry no longer there. A barrier torn down. It’s so freeing that it gets easier and easier to forgive.
Another conversation I had this week was with a birth mother who had lost her child to the system. Her kids have been adopted and she probably won’t see them until they are at least 18 if not older. There are two sides of unforgiveness happening in this one story. One is the birth mother. She has grown up and feels the weight of her guilt. She is suffering the loss of her children and knows it is because of her own actions. She feels as though she must pay for her sins. She feels she is unworthy of forgiveness. Her whole life she has been taught that she is unworthy. She doesn’t understand God’s forgiveness. She believes she won’t feel better until her children find out why they were taken and she has to answer to their difficult questions. By then, I pray that her children have learned how to forgive. I hope that her children do not waste their time being angry but rejoice in their new, loving surroundings of their adoptive family.
That brings me to the other side of the unforgiveness; the adoptive parents. They don’t know the birth mother. They don’t know the trauma she has lived. They only feel angry at the birth mother for the hurt she caused their children. The effects of which they are trying to cope with as best as they can. Despite all the pain they still need to forgive. Their mother’s DNA makes up part of them. They have many features of her. Forgiving their birth mother for her faults will open the door to fully loving their children; all of them, even their DNA. Children can sense anger and if adoptive parents harbour anger towards their birth family it can be seen by the child in a negative way. The child could feel that if there is something wrong with their birth parent must mean there is something wrong with them. The anger in them prevents them from fully being able to love.
One of the wonderful bits of wisdom I read in my devotion today from Margaret Feinberg is, “Unforgiveness casts dark shadows on the soul and prevents us from flourishing.” 2019 is a great year for you to sweep away dark shadows in your soul. Are there people in your life today or in the past who are preventing you from flourishing? You are the only one who can stop them from casting shadows on your soul. You have all the power to forgive and see how much more you can love because of it. Jesus died for your sins and for those of others. Let that be enough.