A year ago my father died. I was at his bedside for that last terrible week when, one by one, his bodily systems began to sign off and shut down.
Before that, I was his caretaker, helping him transition from assisted living, to hospital, to nursing home. It battered my spirit and I wrote poetry to cope.
My mom was the love of his life for 60 years. They met in Yosemite and lived a life of adventure and service.
But it wasn’t easy and we struggled mightily along the way. We lost each other as a family and had to find our way back to each other through forgiveness. My dad, the army colonel and doctor, spoke a different language of the heart than the rest of us did.
I watched my mom say goodbye to my dad. She held his hand, kissed him, and told him she’d see him in heaven. It was tender and holy and hard.
It was a righteous ending that never would have been possible without her understanding and practicing the art of forgiveness.
As a man who daily had to make life-saving decisions, my dad sometimes struggled with his bedside manner. But I’m so glad that my mom taught me how to forgive and modeled it all her life.
I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others. Learning how to give and receive forgiveness has been so important to navigating the seasons of life like the one we’re in now.
This time of national isolation may be a productive one if we’ll allow it to teach us the things we were too busy to see. Things like our need for forgiveness and connection.
Last Saturday, sensing that we were headed for lockdown here in Georgia, I visited my mom at her retirement center. I didn’t hug her. We sat maybe eight feet apart on park benches. “How are you doing, mom?” I asked.
“I’m wonderful, honey. They take care of us here.”
“Do you want me to get you a TV, mom?”
“No, I’m OK, I don’t want a TV, I’d rather focus on things that matter.”
That’s my mom. Focusing on prayer and relationships – the things that matter. She’s always wearing a smile and sporting a great attitude. I’m pretty sure it’s because she mastered the art of forgiveness – she travels light.
Somehow, I learned that from her. I remember in the darkest period of my life when God showed me I needed to forgive the person who had betrayed me. And he showed me that I needed to do it right away.
It was so hard! But on the other side, I was free and able to travel light.
I’ve tried to make grace and forgiveness my practice ever since. It’s been a gift. Life is too difficult to lug around the baggage of broken relationships.
What if we were all to make this season of quiet – a time when we are fasting relationships – also a season of forgiveness? What if we were to ask God to show us those people we need to forgive or to ask forgiveness from?
We live in such a contentious society. Our politics poison our spirits. So many of our conversations are toxic and bleed poisons into our spirits. So many of us need the connection that forgiveness could bring.
What if we were to repent of that broken way of life and find comfort in a season of forgiveness? Yes, it’s a time of national sickness, but some of the healing we need is available if we’ll search our hearts and repent to those we’ve hurt.