Forgiveness: sometimes it’s like running a marathon

by Dawn Aldrich

Finish line at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon

Finish line at Disneyland’s Star Wars Half Marathon

Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:14 (MSG)

My husband just ran his first half marathon and I couldn’t be more proud. As he crossed the finish line and limped his way through the medals line, he said he almost blubbered like a baby—not from physical pain, but because he accomplished a significant milestone.

If forgiveness were a race, I’d be a plodder. In fact, when it came to forgiving my dad, it took me thirty-five years to even get off the couch and start training! It’s a common story, Dad walks out on the family, leaving behind wounded hearts, but the pain an absent father causes hurts just the same.

For years I prayed, “God, please bring my daddy home. Put my family back together the way it was, please.” However, when he did return to remarry my mother, just before I turned seventeen, life became unexpectedly awkward. Filled with mistrust, I’d built thick, protective walls around my heart so no one—especially my dad—could hurt me again. Although my lips uttered, “I forgive you,” I didn’t forgive my father heart deep.

Fast forward 28 years. I attended a woman’s retreat where the speaker taught on the names of God. Based on the name Abba (Father), she asked us to list all the positive lessons our earthly father had taught us. “Yeah, right!” I scoffed. “What positive lessons could my father have taught me, God? He walked out on me, remember?”

God and I wrestled until dawn when I finally limped toward the chapel, journal in hand. I blasted God for daring to open that closed chapter in my life. Finally, God asked, “Are you done yet?” And God did an amazing thing. He showed me all the positive lessons I learned from my earthly father—because of how God created him and despite his sin. Most importantly, God reminded me that He freely forgave my father, so who was I to withhold forgiveness from him?

I’d love to say I ran home and forgave my father, but I didn’t. I wrestled with God for seven months until I finally surrendered. As I freely released forgiveness, heaven’s gates opened and God’s fullest love and blessing spilled over me.

Forgiveness can be a difficult and painful ordeal. For some, offering forgiveness may be like running a marathon—it may take years of healing and processing before we’re ready. But, whether we forgive quickly or not, the important thing is that we do forgive one another—heart deep and with love.

Is there a person you find difficult to forgive? Won’t you ask Jesus to help you see that person through His eyes and, with His help, make steps toward forgiving that person? Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget the sins against us, but that we release the hold their sin has against us.

Abba, help us to freely forgive those who’ve wounded us. We surrender our unforgiving hearts and pray for courage to release the hold their sin has had on us and to set them free from our unforgiveness.

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