If you’ve read this blog at any point you may have picked up on the fact that the last several years have been difficult and painful as well as challenging and maturing. (Insert slightly sarcastic chuckle here) The process of transitioning and reframing your life will cause you to reflect upon just about everything in your life especially your past as you try to answer the question “How in the heck did I get here?!”
One of the more difficult and hairy issues we’ve faced in the last year in particular is that some people have felt that they have to choose relationally. I have had a very difficult time wrapping my brain and my heart around this and have spent quite a bit of time praying and writing in my journal on this troublesome issue. I honestly struggled with the idea that one would have to choose.
While we were in Minnesota for the holidays Kevin and I had a conversation with my mom and the lightbulb suddenly went off in my head as she compared the situation we find ourselves in to a divorce.
My parents separated the summer before my 8th grade year and divorced when I was 14 so my mom understands divorce. While divorce is a huge and painful scar on the landscape of all the family members involved, it is especially and uniquely scarring to children as it creates an immediate sense of insecurity and the very nature of divorce creates sides. Whether you want to our not, friends and family feel like they have to choose sides and the children are often the collateral damage of this relational tug-of-war. I know this from a pastoral/counselor point of view as I’ve walked beside friends as they’ve navigated the twisting and winding path that is divorce.
However, and this was my lightbulb moment, I did not experience that division of sides as a child of a divorced home and that is why this past year has been so confusing for me at times. In the midst of the pain and confusion of the separation my mom became a follower of Jesus and has never looked back. When my mom decided to follow Jesus she dived in all the way and embraced the Word of God as her authority for life and her guide as she navigated the divorce and it bore amazing fruit in all of our lives. Fruit that I am just now really beginning to appreciate and value.
Forgiveness and praying for others were the first things I learned from my mom. I was not a good pupil by any means as I was angry and confused by the separation, she probably thought every word she shared with me about the Bible and Jesus went in one ear and out the other but the truth is I absorbed it like a sponge. More importantly, I experienced her words lining up with her actions and I did follow in her footsteps as I decided to follow Jesus not long after she did.
I am amazed at how my mom’s words and actions imprinted on me deeply and profoundly as I observed her as she modeled forgiveness and prayer. Most mornings when I got up for school the first thing I saw was my mom kneeling at the foot of her bed, Bible open before her and a long list of people she was praying for. I know my mom was reeling from the separation and full of fear about the future, but she choose to forgive my dad and speak forgiveness into the situation and she taught my brothers and I to do the same. She choose to trust Jesus and that what His word says is true, that He was trustworthy even when what He was asking was very difficult like “Forgive those who have sinned against you” and “Teach your children to honor and respect their dad by being respectful of him with your own words.”
I cannot recall ever feeling like I had to choose between my mom or my dad. I cannot remember either of my parents putting us in the middle so we felt like we were the rope in their emotional tug-of-war. Nor can I recall my extended family on either side, and we are a big family, ever making me feel like I had to choose. I don’t recall expecting my family or friends to choose one side or the other. I am convinced that my mom’s choice to forgive and to pray for those who are hurting you was the key to this incredible blessing in our lives. I cannot recall either of my parents speaking ill or nasty of the other one. In fact both parents, and eventually my step-mom, expected us to be respectful of all the parents in our family.
I have memories of my mom’s brothers still playing golf with my dad and my dad’s sisters still talking to and comforting my mom. While I grieved the holidays because they were now split between mom and dad, I can’t remember feeling like a traitor to one side or the other because we loved our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins on both sides of the family.
There were mistakes made and hurt enough to go around for sure, but we were spared so much by the simple obedient act of forgiveness.
I am sure that there are pieces of this story that, because I was a child and was therefore not privy to the private and intimate pain and anger my mom and dad were experiencing, would paint a different picture. But for me, my mom’s constant reminder that we needed to forgive dad and forgive her and forgive whoever else was causing us pain as well as asking us “have you prayed for them?” was a divine lesson in humility and valuing relationships over being right or the right to be the victim. (That last one alone is probably worthy of a number of blog posts!)
I learned to pray out loud “Father I choose to forgive….” from my mom and I learned the value of a praying life from my mom.
This is a legacy and an inheritance worth more than millions in gold and silver. The legacy of praying it forward has borne so much fruit in my life and the lives of my kids it’s overwhelming to think about.
I can only hope that I have prayed this forward into my children’s lives. I can only pray that the legacy of forgiveness and valuing relationships will be prayed froward from my mom to me to my children to my grandchildren and on down to a thousand generations of those who love the Lord.
I am deeply grateful this year for the legacy of forgiveness in relationships.
I am deeply grateful that my mom not only lived this out loud but prayed this out loud and forever changed the course of history for our family.
I love you mom!