Lessons from Cherith
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21
He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him. In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days. My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family. This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow. They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.
In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle. But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck. To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer. As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life. But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned. Enough was enough.
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22
Let’s face it, we are only human. We get our feelings hurt. We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships. We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol. Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans. We get to the end of our rope. We have no more tears to shed.
I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done. I’m tired of being blamed for his problems. I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help. I’m angry how he treats our mother.” And really, could anyone fault her? But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it. I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help. Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28
We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed. Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving. We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord. Forgive me.” And He does.
I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives. My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others. My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them. And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
I started this message about a man so broken from addiction. A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God. But God is a miracle worker as we all know. So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.” He turned to God for forgiveness and healing. When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes. To see God’s hands work like no other. To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room. We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I. His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy! His demeanor was clearly different. I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted. I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness. He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.
My mother-in-law thanked him immediately. She said, “I needed to hear this. It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.” And they wept. For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days. I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness. And saw them weep from the healing love of God. I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home. He was in pain but was healed. He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness. And he knew he was loved.
Who do you need to forgive right now?
Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?
It’s time for healing.
PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂