Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 that if we hate someone, it is the same as murder. John further comments on this in 1 John 3:15, "Whosever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him". Wow!
Growing up, I was a very skinny kid and was picked on unmercifully. Today they call it "bullying". In the 70's, well, that's just "kids being kids". All kids have trouble at school; ALL do. It is a matter of how it is dealt with by the kids, by the school, but especially at home. Why at home? Because this is the one place where kids are supposed to feel the safest. Kids NEED to feel safe at home. When their is no "safe place" for kids, they act out and hide. I know because I did.
While there are many examples of my home life, I will give one here for arguments sake. Keep in mind that my father is now gone and I believe he is with Jesus. The roads we travel sometimes include many curves and mechanical problems. The destination is ultimately what needs to be taken into consideration, right?
We moved around a lot when I was growing up. We moved in the middle of my third grade year, my fifth grade year, my sixth grade year, my seventh grade year, and at the end of my eighth grade year. That is true and with a name like mine, it wasn't difficult to find "bullies"; I mean "kids being kids". My father had lost his job and we were very poor at that time. The first day at my new school during the seventh grade change over, I walked to the bus stop. All of the kids were waiting for the bus in one area while I stood apart from them about maybe 10 feet away. I heard them laughing and then all of a sudden, my head was ringing and sharp pain went through my whole being. I remember it like it was yesterday. One of the "bullies", I mean "kids being kids", through a rock and it hit me in the head. I ran home and was sobbing as I did. I remember running into our apartment and my father greeting me. "What in the @#%$ are you doing home?" I tried to explain that I was hit in the head with a rock. There was now blood on my shirt, so it was obvious. He then explained to me in the way he always did how worthless I was and that now he had to drive my &*$%^$ **^%$ to school. After adding to my appearance of bruises, he drove me to school, cursing me up one side and down the other; all the way there. All day at school, I had blood on my shirt and cried sporadically. The next morning I walked to the bus stop and the same thing continued. Instead of running home, I stood there and took it. I figured it was easier to take it for about 20 minutes than to go home and get beat up there as well. (True Story)
Why bring this up? Because harboring the anger that accompanies this sort of story is natural. I eventually forgave those kids in my mind because as kids do, they eventually stopped picking on me and found another to torment. My father? I hated him. I hated him for NEVER being there to help. I cannot remember one time in my growing up that he helped me. While it sounds trivial now, let me take you down the path that happened to me and see if any of this hits home with you. I was spanked in school, suspended, and eventually BECAME a bully. When I was 17, my parents moved away and I lived in my car. I moved in with my sister a couple of times, but she had her own life and I only made it worse. When did anything change? It all changed, OR STARTED TO CHANGE on August 11th, 1983 at 4:30 in the afternoon.
When I turned my life over to the Lord, everything started changing. Everything except my anger toward my father. What I did do was learn to mask it. You see, in Christianity, we learn to say and do the right things to the right people and it makes us look and sound "Christian". In reality, it drives the hidden pain deeper and makes it more difficult to live; at least live a normal life (whatever that is). The funny thing is, I hurt everyone around me except the one I had the pent up anger toward, and I didn't even realize it.
I was debilitated. I was functioning, and functioning well, but my personal life was a complete masquerade and it prevented me from fulfilling my destiny in Christ. Again, I sounded "very Christian". I even did all of the "very Christian" things. Unfortunately, those around me suffered; except for the one who I was angry toward.
In May of 1998, my father died of stomach lining cancer; he was 56. He died a slow and painful death. This is what I had always wished for on him and now it had come true. I cried the loudest at his funeral. I actually made a fool of myself that week. Not intentionally, I just did. Everyone thought I mourned him and his passing, but I was mourning what could have been. He suffered greatly and I am sure he suffered lying there wishing he could change things that he had done, or hadn't done.
Jesus understood the plight of humans and what we carry around; he became one of us, remember? He endured much worse than we could ever go through, and yet? He forgave the very ones that were murdering Him. When He addressed hatred and called it murder, I am sure He understood what He was talking about. When a life is taken, not only is it tragic, it deprives anyone of restoration to that relationship. Think about what a life my father and I could have had. I used to think about it every day. Hatred is worse than the murder of taking a life. Why? Because when you hate someone, you are as dead as the one whose life was taken from them.
Then forgiveness came.
God deals with everyone in different ways. I am so A.D.H.D. that He uses media mostly to speak to me. I was watching "I can only Imagine" one night about two years ago. It was during that movie that I finally was freed. My wife was at the beach and the movie ended about 2 am. The scene where the father is seen back lit in the theater and it is just him and his son singing? That is when forgiveness came. My chest felt light. I was stunned; literally. I had prayed for decades and now it was over. I immediately came to my computer and started writing. I wrote and wrote. I was now free.
How do I know? There are many ways to know how you are free from anger and resentment but the greatest is your actual freedom. You know! Somehow, you just know. I do not pretend anymore. I rarely, if ever speak of my father as to where I used to constantly refer to his being a terrible person; on a daily basis. I know where he is and look forward one day to seeing him. I miss him but not in a way most miss a loved one that has departed. I miss him because I have questions that will never be answered; at least not by him. Jesus loves me and that is something that has sustained me all these years; even after my forgiving my father.
In summary, what happens to us when we are growing up DOES matter. It affects our every being. When someone you know is going through something, don't add to the problem, be a safe haven for them. If you have a child that is being bullied at school, don't continue to take him to the daycare after school where the procurator is making it worse. The bullied can build anger toward that person without knowing it. If your child is being bullied at school, don't continue to bring them to karate, chess club, soccer, or any other activity that may make it worse. Listen to your kids. It doesn't mean you have to do what they ask. Listening means you care. If you listen, that in and of itself may be enough.
I turn 56 this year. I know that I have forgiven my father. The following is what I wrote that night I forgave him. I put this out there in hopes that someone will be able to forgive someone who was NOT there to make them feel safe when they had the opportunity. I put this out there to help someone make their life what it is supposed to be, not what they think it is supposed to be.
Sometimes Saying Good Bye Isn’t That Hard
Sometimes saying good bye isn’t that hard. When memories are so heavy that I can’t carry them anymore. My life condensed to just agony and pain. Just reliving over and over the things that hurt so bad.
When Jesus says that He makes you free, sometimes it takes a while. It would be great if it happened over night, but it is a process. I have struggled my entire life to forget the pain.
When He said He would carry me, I believed Him but never felt it; but I know He did. Memories are cruel, and memories are sweet. The two cannot be separated. If one is removed, you will forget the other and become nothing. Suffering is what makes us, and suffering is what builds us.
I watched my father die a slow and painful death. It was what I hoped for when I was so young. As I grew, I closed out the pain and lived a lie for peace. Peace is sometimes external while turmoil looms internally. I am proof. As he died his slow death, I hurt knowing that he was changing and sorrowful. His last breath was my first. The first on a journey that would bring me into the abyss.
Magnification comes at the times you want to forget, and selfishness can take any form. I yearned for peace and Jesus stood ready to give but I wasn’t ready. What would I do with it? Would I even know peace?
The cost of peace sometimes far outweighs the turmoil that we breath. Knowing that a knife in your heart can be removed but will cause deeper pain in the process. What is the heart? Is it really who we are? Jesus lives in my heart. He understands the pain that lived there. Jesus lived in the midst of all of the hurt and pain and understood what was needed.
Conversation is just that and actions truly speak louder. When a dagger is removed, it becomes much more painful to find that a larger has sliced through. The damage is more severe due to the unknowing mask that is finally removed and seeing what has been hidden.
I turned a corner some years ago and began a journey to walk through the darkness. Darkness is something felt and while blinding can be maneuverable. Coming out of the shadows made my heart begin to see. He who began a good work in me… He certainly did. Why won’t he heal me? He has. Why do I hurt? Because when the accident is over, the healing begins.
God knows me and where I am and took my memories and separated them without removing them. I can breathe. I can breathe. I have breath. My soul can breathe. Behold I see through the glass darkly… Where am I? I am in the hand of Jesus and He has always been there although I had no feeling. I can breathe. He has separated the memories and tonight, I can breathe.
When He began His good work in me, I failed to see the depth of His task; but He did not. My belief was it would be in my time, but I have no time; only His. He who began a good work…
In my soul there is life now. I can breathe. At what point are we in the good work? If just a miniscule part, it matters not to me. I can breathe. With the pulling of the thorn comes pain. The closer the thorn to removal, the more the pain. I can breathe. In my life was pain, but now understanding.
Oh God, you are so merciful and full of understanding. As a child you were there for me. As a child you watched as I was tormented. As a child you hurt with me. As a child you cried with me. As a child, you were my island and I didn’t know I was sinking. I can breathe.
Emotions were there and now they are here. You separated my memories and now I can breathe. There are no stronger words I know than Thank You. Being able to breathe for the first time since I can remember. Memories are life and life is pain. He who began a good work in me may not be finished, but I can breathe.
Jesus suffered when I suffered. Jesus cried when I cried. Jesus hid when I hid. And now? Now I can breathe. Tonight, something clicked. Perhaps another step in the process or maybe two. I would tell my dad that I love him and know he is sorry. He belongs to Jesus as do I and is forgiven as am I.
My life has just begun, and I will make the most of it. Thank you for giving me this chance. I can breathe. My lungs are full of hope and after so many years of wonder, I finally have trust. I trust you, Lord. I trust you. I can breathe and you gave that to me. Memories are separated, and my past has brought me here. I give my future to you and thank you for allowing me this freedom.
I was hurt as a child and I was loved by you. I was beat as a child and you healed me. I was lied to as a child and you told me the truth. You brought me from a child to adult tonight. So, saying good bye isn’t always that hard. Good bye hurt, good bye pain, good bye bad memories, good bye anger, and good-bye childhood. Thank you, Jesus. I can breathe.