No, Not Seven.

“… forgive, from your heart.” Matthew 18:35

So often, when I think of my parents, I know that I need to forgive.

Truth be told I am afraid, even though I know that letting go of the past is the only way to move forward.  But I fear the unknown of living looking forwarda life of trusting, giving, loving, even hoping.  You see, most of the residual anger, I think, is simply a sense of disbelief that a mother and father could do that.

To say that we lived in constant fear is an unfair exaggeration.  But we were scared all the time (of my Father.)  What did Mother do, you may wonder?  What is she doing now?  My mother detached. And continues to be isolated and aloof from me eight years after my Father’s death. And though she “loved us very much” she let him rage on, and on. And he still has the power, even in death.

She let him rage on and became a passive perpetrator of his crimes.  And to a child growing up in his home, my Father was highly irrational, often cruel, hopelessly aggressive, and in a constant state of potential irritation; to the point that when I was in my early twenties and head over heals in love I found myself saying of the boy in question: “Treat me well. Or treat me poorly. I don’t care. Just be consistent.”

It is far too easy to wander from the point which is my inability to forgive. 

Perhaps it is because I cannot fully embrace the forgiveness I have received–just when I think that I do get it. Do I fully appreciate the mercy and grace in my life — there is no way that I can say I do — with lack of forgiveness in my heart.

I face my lack daily. But even amidst the doubt, questions and distrust (of God and people) I must remember that I am forgiven and because of that I want to know Jesus more. Jesus says, forgive as you have been forgiven.

In the movie Helen of Troy, Agamemnon the commander of the Greeks killed his own daughter to appease the gods.  My step-daughter who is agnostic and I were discussing sacrificing your life for another. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his child. Jesus.  Questioningly, she said, “Doesn’t it take away from what Jesus did that he knew he would end up in heaven with God?”  How revealing that statement is.

Would you give up your life for another even if you knew it would end well?  Would you forgive?  In the parable of the unmerciful servant in Mt 18, Jesus challenges this very thing that I am understanding about myself–my inability to forgive and give up my “rights,” the power of my anger toward my parents and Jesus says, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven…” (Matthew 18)

Henri Nouwen reminds us that Jesus’ primary concern was obedience to his Father, to live constantly in his presence.  “Only then did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationships with people.” 

It is clear to me.  I need to seek to forgive.  I may not know how, but I know that I must move toward it by seeking the presence of God.

And a life of

trust, love and even hope will come.

2 thoughts on “No, Not Seven.

  1. Powerful and difficult stuff. I think that hard part with forgiveness is that I fear forgiving someone will somehow minimize what has been done. As if by saying I forgive someone that I’ve also said, “No harm done.” And the truth is that harm has been done, but we need to live in the tension of offering forgiveness in spite of that truth. Good, but hard things to ponder here.


    1. That’s the truth, Ed. My father (Dan Harrison) had a lifelong struggle with rage which he controlled at work but rarely at home. He was in full-time ministry with Wycliffe and InterVarsity. He was emotionally and verbally abusive to us and my mother. It’s so complicated. I am called to move forward in grace, meanwhile I must deal with what happened and how it shapes the person that I am. My mother, (simply) a victim herself, still seems culpable and though she said recently she stayed for us kids I struggle to let go of my anger.


Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

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