Motherhood: Ushering in Forgiveness
“Women who have had the opportunity to extend forgiveness have the privilege and responsibility to teach the art of forgiveness. The question is, what are we going to do with our hurts? Are we going to allow them to immobilize us, or will we turn them into valuable resources to encourage and equip others to forgive? Whether we use our hurts in negative, destructive ways or in positive, building ways depends on whether or not we forgive.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Often women truly forgive, but because there is no reconciliation with the one who has hurt them they labor under false guilt that they have not done everything they should. Reconciliation requires both repentance and forgiveness. There is a dual responsibility on the part of the offender and the offended. We cannot control the repentance of the one who has hurt us. We can only forgive. Our forgiveness may or may not bring about reconciliation, but it will free us to have a right relationship with God and with others.
The woman who has forgiven will have an alertness to the feelings and circumstances of others. This heightened sensitivity will cause her to be a woman of action. It will be intrinsic to her character to nurture and encourage others.” | Susan Hunt, Spiritual Mothering
Cars came at us from every side as we dashed across the busy road near our Central Asian home. Their physical threat, however, was small in comparison to the enemy’s familiar lies that accompanied my son’s sudden question…
”Mom, we are mad at your dad, aren’t we?” he asked me out of the blue, at what seemed like the most inopportune time.
But really, is there ever a good time to address such difficult and grief laden questions? His inquiry was both innocent and insecure. I heard his ”we” and realized that my feelings toward my father, whose suicide left me parentless at a young age, were about to be adopted by my ten year old son.
How do I explain to my son the complexities of this horrific tragedy? Even after 6 years, this tender child of mine grieves his grandfather’s death, having even recently uttered the words “I can’t believe he chose not to know me.” Did my dad understand the far reaching affects of his decision? No, probably not. My own feelings regarding suicide compounded by exhaustion from living cross culturally makes shepherding his young heart feel like an impossible calling. When these disorienting conversations arise by my son’s initiation, I am oftentimes left flailing between two extremes: overcompensating for my dad’s actions by painting him out to be a superhero or letting my emotions take the reigns, blurting out what it really feels like to be left behind on purpose by your dad. Neither are right. My natural bent toward avoidance is insufficient for my curious son, which is ok as he has every right to know his heritage.
Time seemingly stood still on that busy road as his question called forth suppressed memories. I once again tasted the bitterness of old questions and labels I must fight daily with my shield of faith.
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” | Ephesians 6:16
As they often do, the evil one’s flaming darts came in the form of false identities my forgetful human nature is quick to believe…
Abandoned. Orphaned. Unloved. Angry.
”God, help me,” I prayed silently as my dread of this conversation was almost palpable.
Mere seconds after my prayer, Hebrews 12 immediately filled my mind…
”See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” | Hebrews 12:15
It all happened so fast as we walked together – my son spoke, the enemy taunted, the Spirit reminded me of mind-transforming verses that have been written on my heart through diligent study, and I was faced with a choice: choose obedience and walk confidently in my true identity, or reject the help God was giving me in an overwhelming moment of temptation.
The darkness of those false identities were suddenly brought to light by the Spirit as the chains of bondage that they really are. Chains my son was about to pick up. Chains that are strong, but snap like thread when exposed to the precious promises God has given us.
”No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” | 1 Corinthians 10:13
God faithfully gave me such clarity in the whirlwind of emotion I felt. I could allow a root of bitterness to spring up, which would then defile others, namely my son, or I could cling to truth and usher my son into the freedom of forgiveness. Anger, festering and unattended, is a vicious trap that kills a mother’s tender hearted influence to model and teach the art of extending the kind of grace – unmerited, undeserving favor – that God extends to us. The overflow from a mother who sees her own wicked sin nature, yet walks clothed in godliness as a new creation, is life-giving to her children. They will see the forgiven forgive, and Lord willing, they follow suit.
“And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness].” |Ephesians 4:27, Amplified
Choosing to rob the devil of an opportunity to lead my son and me into sin was a fight, but one that the promises of God enabled me to engage in.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. | Psalm 91:4, NLT
These promises are our armor and our protection.
The promises of God are a defensive weapon that we are invited to hide behind as our protection in battle. Those tired mornings I wake up a little earlier than my children to read the Word are not wasted – it’s giving the Holy Spirit truth with which He reminds me of who I am and Who God is when I am tempted. As the Word of God dwells richly in us, we are able to teach others in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16).
Abiding in Christ – dwelling, remaining, living – in Christ is the only way to bear fruit (John 15:5). It’s the only way we, as mothers, can transplant the truth of God’s Word into our children who still haven’t learned to nurture their own personal relationship with Jesus just yet. So when my son said “we,” I was able to answer no, we don’t have to be mad because Jesus helps us forgive,” thus inviting him to follow me as I follow Christ.
The promised Spirit has been given and bears witness to my adoption as His daughter (Romans 8:16). His seal has been placed on me – His Spirit in my heart as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22). These promises woven throughout scripture give us supernatural strength and wisdom in life’s most despairing moments. They remind me of my identity when I forget. They give life where the enemy speaks death. They give hope in the pit of despair. They replace doubt with faith. They give wisdom when we just don’t know what to do. They make an impossible calling suddenly possible through reliance on Him. God’s promises produce a forward-gazing hope that will not disappoint, so let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before you (Hebrews 12:1).
Like many of you, my life sometimes feels like I am constantly swimming upstream. My challenging foreign context alone is enough to tempt me into believing I cannot do this whole motherhood thing well. But continuous culture stress does not negate my calling to bear truth to these sweet babies who skip around unaware of the different culture I feel distracted by. A stressful life does not automatically mean we should settle for surviving over thriving, for we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).
Our Father in heaven, who promises to finish every good work He begins, has given us all we need for life and godliness (Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 1:3). We’ve been given His unfailing Word and access to His throne of grace which we can approach with confidence in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We’ve been given a new identity, and a hope that is living (1 Peter 1:3) and expectant. God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) – He has not given us a spirit that flees from battle. So as my son asked one of the hardest questions an forsaken daughter could be asked, I clung to the only One who could help. In faith, I held onto all that Christ’s blood has made my identity, and mothered to the spirit of power, love, and self-control that He has given me. God empowered me to go to war for my son with a sober mind that could discern the battle of bitterness, anger, and unforgivness that was at hand.
Even with a heart full of sorrow, God led me in the joy of obedience.
The baby steps of speaking truth to my son on that busy street, despite not wanting to in my flesh, suddenly turned into a beautiful opportunity to once again organically share the hope-filled gospel of Jesus Christ with my grieving son. Only Jesus could strengthen a weary mom to choose obedience in such devestation. Only Jesus could take a conversation that started with the ashes of suicide and bridge it to the beauty of Christ. Only Jesus could use the teaching words coming out of the mouth of an abandoned daughter to remind her that she need not live like an orphan, for she has been adopted by the King of Kings.
What a lesson brimming with joyful sorrow – sorrow over the losses that I will grieve every day as I wait for eternity; joy from seeing God’s faithfulness through the provision of His life-giving Word that truly does sustain.
I imagine that the conversations with my children have only just begun regarding their grandfather’s death. But our Father’s promise that one day He will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) shines light in the darkness of my story. Hoping for this day helps me put one foot in front of the other, mothering through His perfect strength, until that beautiful day comes and every wrong is made right.