“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
~ Matthew 6:9 - 13
The other day I spent time with a woman who grew up with a father who rarely expressed his love and often shared with her what he thought were her "short-comings." These were the words that her father would use when he spoke to her growing up. "I just never felt like I was good enough, and now as an adult, he still is telling me what I have failed at," she admitted.
Her father, who is now dying, expects her to be the daughter to come and care for him and take care of all the things that he wants, while also telling him what a wonderful father he has been and to tell him how much she loves him.
It's not the first time that I have encountered someone who has struggled with their relationship with a parent. I have to admit that there is still a tone my father can take, and even me at 56 years of age, feels like the eight-year-old boy that is in trouble.
For this woman, her father is requiring her to do what is not only painful for her, but also, invites her to not be authentic with him. "I have to forgive him," she shared.
One of the things that we have to realize is that when we have had things happen to us, or pain caused by others towards us, we have the right to feel hurt, and to be angry. While this woman is actually looking for a way to have closure with her father as he lays dying, there is also a lot that she is not saying.
Much of what we talked about had to do with forgiveness. "Forgiveness is a choice," I shared with her. Forgiveness is always an option. I reminded her, "Forgiving someone does not mean that you forget, and sometimes reconciliation is simply something that can't happen."
When I was a young person I remember my grandmother telling me that when I ask for forgiveness from God, it is like writing it on a piece of paper that is thrown away and never looked at again. "But I am not God," is what I now quickly admit.
Over the years, and having had several conversations around forgiveness, and the pain that parents have caused to their children (including the times that I have not been the best at parenting as well), I recognize that not everyone is equipped to provide good parenting skills. Many times the results of a difficult relationship with a parent stems from the difficult relationship the parent had with a parent growing up.
It's in these times that forgiveness first begins to take the form of empathy or even compassion for the person who has brought us pain. Not because of what they did, but in spite of it.
The woman, as we continued to talk, seemed to find some peace in the conversation, recognizing even in her own parenting skills, some of the very things that she despised about her own childhood.
Forgiveness happens when we put aside our own feelings, or need, for revenge, anger and guilt. It is something that we must learn to practice, and for this woman, was something she would have to work through as well as she spends the last weeks with her father.
A lesson that we can all practice and learn.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.