And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 (NASB)
At my Connect Group (Sunday School) Valentine’s Party, we shared poignant experiences of love in our lives.
The odd thing was that several of us had especially painful relationships with our own mothers, and what was shared was someone stepping in and fulfilling that role in our lives. One lady asked if God commanded her to love her mother, considering the way she had treated her.
My own mother told me to my face that she had always hated me. Of course, she was in her cups at the time, so she probably never remembered she had actually said it out loud. But, as they say, en vino veritas, in wine there is truth. She said my mere presence made her feel guilty. She couldn’t understand why I had always loved her when she’d always been so mean to me.
She also said she couldn’t love me because I was Mama Lil’s girl, not hers. Mama Lil is the woman who stepped in to give me the love I so desperately needed. But I don’t think anyone can ever have too much love in their lives! I still needed my mother.
I told her I loved her because she was my mother, and the Bible told me to. But I know now, it was more than that. I was able to love her, not because of who she was, but because of Who Jesus is. I loved Jesus from the time I was a little girl. Jesus is Love—Agape Love that loves in spite of who we are, that embodies all of 1 Corinthians 13.
I didn’t embody that love perfectly like Jesus did, but evidently enough that my mom saw Jesus in me, and it made her feel guilty. Romans 12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” When I was a young teen, I’d worked for a couple of days ironing my neighbor’s clothes to buy my mom a box of Valentine’s chocolate. Unfortunately, my neighbor worked late, and didn’t bring them home until after curfew. When I asked for permission to go to my neighbors to retrieve my pay, Mom had a fit. Until I had to tell her why I was going. I certainly never intended to heap any coals on my mother, but evidently being around me made her feel heat.
Forgiveness isn’t for the one forgiven. They probably don’t, or won’t, care one way or another. It’s for our benefit. It frees us from the vines of that root of bitterness that threaten to entangle us so tightly, they would strangle all the life out of our walk with The Lord.
By the time my mom admitted what I’d already known for most of my life, I’d long since forgiven her. But, in one way, her confession did help. I’d always had self-esteem issues. What had I done wrong that my own mother didn’t love me? That night I realized that it didn’t really have anything to do with me. It wasn’t my fault.
We shared the gospel with my mom that night. But she refused to listen. She rejected Jesus.
The next day, my mom’s appendix burst, and she had to have emergency surgery. She had a stroke on the operating table, and was never fully cognizant after that. We had to put her in a nursing home, because she wasn’t capable of living alone. Mom was unconscious for three days before she died. I spent most of those three days witnessing to my sister. A Christian nurse and Pat Dyson, the neighbor who first took me to church when I was little, took turns sharing the gospel. My sister’s objection was that “A God who would let my mom suffer like she has for the past three days can’t be a loving God.” I told her that maybe the reason Mom was lingering was for her sake, so that she could hear the gospel, and be saved. But the nurse had another idea. She said, “Your mom isn’t dead yet. Maybe she’s lingering so that she will finally say yes to Jesus before it’s too late.” I hope that nurse was right. I hope in those last few days, my mom heard the truth, and gave her eternity to the One who is Perfect Forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:9)
Taboo Tuesday Question of the Day: Who do you need to forgive? Let Jesus help you to do it. .