Columnist: A stone’s throw to “forgiveness”
How many people do you know in your life that carry a grudge? How many times when someone dies, have you heard someone close to them say, “I wish I had told them …”?
My father was a gregarious, talkative person. People say we were alike. I got some good advice from Dad throughout my life. Some advice I followed and some I didn’t. Usually, he was right, I was wrong, and he never had a problem saying, “I told you so.”
On a cool, sunny, November day years ago, my father was to leave this earth from a hospital room. He had been there four days, and at 85, he was ready to go home. He had no fear whatsoever. I admired that.
As his eyes were closing, I walked up to him, took his hand and said, “Thank you Dad for being my father, for taking care of all of us, and loving us. You did a great job!” A tear rolled down his cheek, and without opening his eyes, he replied, “I am sorry.”
Stunned, I responded, “For what?”
“I gave you some bad advice years ago and you followed it. It was the wrong thing for you to do. I hurt your life.” At that point the tears started to flow. I knew what he was talking about. He had carried that burden for 30 years and I never knew.
“Dad, my life became what it was supposed to be. You have nothing to be sorry for at all.” He opened his eyes, looked straight at me, and said, “Forgive me.” I held his hand tighter, and whispered, “It was forgiven long ago.”
It was the last words he uttered before walking into an angel’s arms.
Six years later, my mother was in her final days. Mom was a quiet person. I loved her dearly, but we were opposites. I tell everybody way too much about everything. Mom never told anyone way too much about anything.
Near the end of her life, she confided that someone had hurt her 70 years prior. Near death, she still was holding on to that little burden of hurt.
Also, she had lost her first child four days after giving birth. She never discussed it until she told me one day right before her death, “I want to go to heaven to see my baby girl.” I never knew her sorrow.
People hang on to hurt, bitterness, sorrow, revenge and a host of other bad words, because they willfully will not speak about them. Is that false pride or being scared to share; or has the pain become a comfortable shadow they can’t walk away from?
Sometimes you just have to take all that sorrow, hurt, revenge and bitterness to the river.
A while back I was hurt pretty badly. I never thought of myself as a revengeful person. I have many faults but normally I don’t hold grudges; except then I sure did. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think of anything but the pain the other person caused. I had hate within me like I never felt before. I was absolutely miserable.
Then I went down to the river near my home. The Chattahoochee flows rapidly between boulders and rocks. It is a place that people love to sit in the summer and watch the water crash around them.
However, this was winter and no one was there. The solitude embraced me and the rushing water’s noise was enough to drown the demon’s voices in my mind.
“God, you say revenge is yours. So take it from me. I hate this hate within me. I hate that I can’t forgive. I am miserable.”
I prayed those words as earnestly as I could. I picked up a large rock and said aloud, “Here it is, this stone of burden, you can have it God, it’s yours.” I threw the stone into the river as far as I could.
The minute I saw it disappear into the swift current was the minute the pain was gone. I slept soundly that night. I was forgiven for hating, and I forgave the person who hurt me. It was the fastest response I ever got from a prayer in my life.
There are families everywhere that don’t speak to each other. They are stuck, can’t forgive, can’t forget.
There are people walking around with so many grudges inside them that they have forgotten how to enjoy much of anything.
We spend valuable time being afraid of what people think. We think winning with stubbornness is stronger than losing ourselves in the freedom of forgiveness.
To say, “I am sorry” or, “I forgive you” takes courage. Just three little words that completely wash away all the bad ones. Would you rather carry a heavy burden, or would you just as soon let God have it to throw in the swift water?
Another man was on His way to heaven like my father. He had been beaten, persecuted and betrayed. Before He closed His eyes, He looked down from His cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
If He could forgive, should we not do the same? Is it time to go down to the river?