Forgiveness & Family Abusers
First there were the bullies who bloodied her son. Then her husband’s job loss. Then bank threats to repossess her house. But most jarring of all was the message from her dying father.
He had one request of his mid-forties daughter, even if she refused to talk to him. Forgiveness. He’d like a little forgiveness-peace before his last breath.
She dialed the number of the father she hadn’t seen or spoken to in nearly 30 years. “I’m dying!” he wept. “Please forgive me for taking your jewelry!”
My jewelry! She was astonished at the thought. “Oh, no!” she said to a father several countries distant. “That jewelry doesn’t matter, at all!” This was the man who had raped her from age five. He had beaten her with belts, the metal buckles cutting into her flesh. He had smacked her face bloody – until she fled as a teenager, never to return. For decades, she had been tormented by nightmares of him chasing her with a knife, bent on murder.
Now, he wanted forgiveness?
“I don’t care about that jewelry,” Jaz said to her long estranged and now destitute father. “What you did to my body and mind is the issue.”
“You want forgiveness? That happened long ago,” she reported as he sobbed. “I wanted to get rid of hatred cancer inside me. So you’re asking forgiveness in the wrong place. Now, you need to ask God for forgiveness.”
She did not wish revenge. She felt not so much cold as dead to him. So her next actions were remarkable. Despite her own perilous finances, eviction threats, and terrifying memories, she scraped together a little money to send to her tormentor.
Cousins, aunts, uncles – all hated this family villain. So they were startled at new messages from the violated daughter. “He’s dying – so check on him,” she challenged those living near enough. “And pray for him, so he can go to God clean and white,” urged Jaz.
Finding his father living in squalor, a son took his own abuser home to die.
Rallied by a grim victim of incest, torture and father-violence, the relatives gentled the family ogre into a world he had never known. A world where kindness flows from the nature of the givers, who refused to replicate the patriarch’s vile nature. While seeking God’s mercy, the father gratefully soaked up family grace. His dying heart mellowed. Talking with him occasionally, Jaz’s heart began to mellow, as well.
“How does he look?” she asked relatives on the scene. “Sick and skinny,” they replied. So the images of Jaz’s dreams shifted. The knife-wielding monster morphed into a skinny, helpless safeness. The Jaz of dreamland now moved towards him calmly, not fleeing in terror. She wrapped her helpless father in her arms, comforting him in his agony. She felt happy and at peace.
The old family villain made his exit. His elderly sister called Jaz from an ocean away. “Thank you,” she wept, “for sending my brother to God clean and white.”
As it turned out, the entire family was astonished at the robust faith lived out by Jaz. It’s not that she was churchy. For decades, she’d hardly darkened the church door. Friends and relatives urged her to reconnect with God, as solutions for her issues were far beyond them. Threatening banks get some odd credit, too – shoving stressed-out Jaz to the only place where helped seemed possible.
“During the worst year of my life,” she said, “I found God. When I found him, no problems disappeared. But somehow dark clouds were chased from my mind. Now I trust him for whatever comes. Instead of feeling life is such misery, it seems now to me like sunshine, perfume and flowers.”
As for remarkable healing that rippled from Jaz throughout a physically and emotionally battered family, she sees this as a direct gift of recalibrated faith.
Jaz was not a cheap grace-giver, denying that evil was done. She spoke truth to the power figure in her life, from a safer place of self-protection. But she seized a greater power than revenge by shifting to mercy and grace. She started with forgiving behavior, long before she felt emotional warmth. The behavior gradually evolved into emotional forgiveness. It was not that she could shove her violating father into redemption. But she could offer herself as a bridge to that soul-saving state.
In the process, Jaz was astonished at personal healing, mental clarity, relationship repair and empowerment found for herself.