"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 2: Forgiving Father, Part 2

I had a speech prepared for the talk with my Dad. When I sat down with him this week, however, I forgot the speech and managed something like this: "So, um, Dad, I wanted to say something to you. It's about your drinking. It's hurt a lot watching you doing that to yourself. It hurt pretty bad when I was a kid. You kind of weren't around when I needed you. But, um, I just wanted you to know that I have forgiven you. I mean, I do forgive you. I don't hold any of it against you. So, I just wanted you to know that I love you, and I'm praying for you."

That was it. There wasn't much conversation. I'm not sure how Dad felt. He didn't reject what I was saying. His eyes got moist. He said that he was going to try to stop drinking again. There was no apology and no acknowledgment that he had ever done anything wrong. Dad, for now, is just not willing or able to go there. It's sad, because until there is some repentance by him I don't think our relationship will be fully restored.

For me, the process felt awkward but also liberating. I left things unsaid that I had planned to say, but I think I said what needed to be said. So, where do I go from here? I suppose that I go on as before. By God's grace, I have been able to forgive Dad. I feel good about finally offering that forgiveness to him. I don't know how it impacted him, or how it might still impact him. I hope that it blessed him. Maybe, it will help him make peace with God. All I can do is continue loving him and praying for him.

I do want to be careful not to suggest by my posts this week that the forgiveness of deep hurts is easily accomplished in a week's time. Forgiving Dad has been a long process. Every time I think I've completed the process, I realize that God has more to do. If any of you struggle with issues of forgiveness, I recommend to you a book by Lewis B. Smedes, "Forgive & Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve." The great thing about Smedes is that he acknowledges that the forgiving of deep hurts is a slow and difficult process. He describes reconciliation as the "climax" of forgiveness---the point at which repentance meets pardon:

Forgiveness has creative power to move us away from a past moment of pain, to unshackle us from our endless chain of reactions, and to create a new situation in which both the wrongdoer and the wronged can begin a new way.

Forgiveness offers a chance at reconciliation; it is an opportunity for a life together instead of death together. Forgiveness is a miracle of the will that moves away the hindrance to fellowship, a miracle that will be fulfilled when the two estranged people come together in as fair a new relationship as is possible at that time and under those circumstances.

On the other hand, Smedes acknowledges that full reconciliation is not always possible and commends the forgiveness of even the unrepentant.

[W]e need to forgive the unrepentant for our own sake. We need to forgive people who do not care if only so that we do not drown in our own misery. . . . The climax of forgiveness takes two, I know. But you can have the reality of forgiving without its climax. You do not always need a thing whole to enjoy it at all. A [flower bud] has real beauty even if it never becomes a flower. . . . Forgiving is real even if it stops at healing the forgiver.


  1. I'm so proud of the walk that Christ has you on. I know that your openess and honesty with your Dad will reap great rewards. Until these kind of things are actually spoken out it's easy not to deal with them but once confronted forces change. It may only be internal changes those are the best by far even though observers may not notice them.

  2. Thanks for reading, Deb, and for you kinds words and encouragement. It means a lot.

  3. Wow, Nathan! What an amazing process God is doing in your life. It is so good to read your words, even though I know they must be painful to verbalize. I am going on this journey with you, to look at some people in my past that shaped the broken places in my heart and then truly forgive them. Every time I think I have, I am confronted with the truth of still further bondage to sin in which I need my Savior to liberate me. I have to believe that the freedom your soul is going to feel will be amazing. But, also, I will be praying that your commitment to offer this to your dad will work a work of grace in him, as well.


  4. Thanks for reading Deedra, for your very kind comment, and for your prayers. The first two weeks of this project have been gut wrenching. I was determined from the beginning to make this deeply personal, to be totally honest, and to be open to God doing big things in my life. All the glory to Him. Blessings to you and your wonderful family.