"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."
~ John 15:5
I spent a good portion of yesterday talking with a woman who was trying to find a way to forgive her mother that she has been caring for. As a child, her father had died and she and her mother were "left to make it on our own."
At the age of nine, her mother's new husband literally "sold her" to be a "house servant." Two years later, her mother, a widow once again, came and got her from the home, and the two went to live with another relative, where she once again, "basically worked and gave my mother every penny I earned."
It wasn't until she turned fifteen when she fell in love with a much older man, "who saved me from the life I was living." She married and, "never looked back."
"But now, here I am, a widow, and taking care of the woman who simply could never find a way to care for me, and I am demonstrating each day what love looks like to me. Unconditionally."
The love that we have for one another can simply be a struggle at times. We each have times where we have poorly loved one another, and then we must find a way to introduce forgiveness into the relationship in order to find peace. Our learning to love one another through our weaknesses can be among the greatest challenges we may ever face. Especially when the the weakness occurs with someone we love.
For this woman, forgiveness actually is beginning with herself. She admitted, "I need to forgive myself for feeling this way about my mother."
Noting that her mother is no longer the, "same person she was," as disease and dementia has changed her, "I know that I will never truly be able to resolve everything I am feeling."
Recognizing that God's mercy is greater than our pain, in itself becomes the initial step to forgiveness. Validating her feelings was something that I felt necessary to do. The pain that she experienced, and the reality that her mother had not been able to protect her from many things as a child. Additionally, neither one of us were in a place to offer excuses for the decisions her nother had made.
We live in an imperfect world, where each day we are exposed to the decisions that others have made in their lives. When we have been harmed by others, or in this case, even "sold," for the sake of someone else's gain, finding a way to get to the place of forgiveness can be a lifelong journey. This woman is living into this each day.
As our visit came to an end, we focused on taking all of these feelings, the pain, and circumstances, and placing them into her hands. She could then make the choice to hold onto them, making a fist while recognizing the real anger that she owned, or to find the strength to open her hands and to allow for God's mercy to take them from her.
For any of us, our wounds can serve as both a place for healing to begin, as well as, a reminder of what we have been through and arrived on the other side, still in one piece, but changed.
For her, it was the beginning of finding a way to wholeness as she continues to care for her mother, and as she seeks to let go of the pain that has directed her decisions most of her life.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.