By Matt Haviland, Crosswalk.com
One way or another, single parenting is birthed out of brokenness. A broken relationship; a broken home; and often a broken heart. As a single parent, what sort of brokenness have you experienced? The greater question is, are you able to forgive where it may be needed?
Perhaps you need to forgive someone and you are really struggling with that. Who do you need to forgive: The other parent? Your own parents? Yourself? The ability to forgive, even in the most difficult of circumstances, is what sets us free from the bondage that may be hindering other areas of our lives.
I have personally learned to forgive others who I surely thought never deserved it--and I am so much better off because of this. Where does forgiveness start and does it ever end? Is not forgiving an option? It all begins with grace. Are you willing to accept grace into your own life so that you can impart it to others?
These are the words I wrote when recently asked to speak at a single moms conference on the topic of “Battling Unforgiveness.” The quote above was posted on the Facebook page of the host ministry. Here are a couple of the responses I received back:
I was completely broken. My faith, my heart, my family, everything. I chose to forgive or start the forgiveness process early in the divorce. I didn’t want my children to see their mother as a bitter old lady!
Forgiving yourself is the hardest thing I ever had to do, forgiving my ex… was the second hardest thing. But once I did, I became a better [person] for it. I’m at peace and able to move on with my life.
After speaking with some of the moms personally, I realized just how wounded some of them have been (guys, this goes for us too). And to tell you the truth, everything I could ever teach or write on this subject will be completely pointless… unless the Holy Spirit shows up and does the healing in any of us who are struggling with forgiving someone.
The Bible is full of examples and guidance when it comes to giving (and receiving) forgiveness: Psalm 86:11, 139:23-24, Proverbs 4:23 (condition of our heart); Matthew 5:43-48, 6:14-15, 18:21-22, Mark 11:25, Luke 23:34 (the words of Jesus); Lamentations 3:22-23, Romans 8:1 (us being forgiven daily); and Ephesians 4:32 (forgiving others as we have been forgiven). I encourage you in the same way I did with those who attended my breakout session to memorize and meditate on these verses--as well as the opening paragraph. Work them regularly into your quiet time and take your time as you allow God to help you find freedom through His leading.
Remember, a wound will only become infected if it is left untreated. In other words, in the same way a physical wound needs to be cleansed, treated, and covered, so do other sorts of “wounds.” Yes, there may be a scar, but ask yourself if you are still walking around with an open wound--and how much longer will you wait to begin having it treated?
There is an amazing song by Matthew West called Forgiveness. If you know the story behind it (look it up if you don’t), then you know that only God can do the miraculous when it seems impossible for us to forgive those who don’t seem forgivable. The song starts out like this:
It’s the hardest thing to give away and the last thing on your mind today. It always goes to those who don’t deserve. It’s the opposite of how you feel when the pain they caused is just too real. It takes everything you have just to say the word… forgiveness.
The chorus and bridge follows: Show me how to love the unlovable. Show me how to reach the unreachable. Help me now to do the impossible. Forgiveness, forgiveness. I want to finally set it free. So show me how to see what Your mercy sees. Help me now to give what You gave me. Forgiveness, forgiveness.
I will challenge you with an exercise. It may seem drastic, unreasonable, and perhaps not doable right now, but give it a shot: Grab a pen, a piece of paper, and someone you can pray with. Write down on the paper who you need to forgive, what they did to you, and how it made you feel. Pray with whoever is there with you and take your time. When you are ready, read the paper out loud, declare “I forgive them in Jesus’ name!” and rip the paper up! Throw it in the trash and continue praying as long as you need.
If you are not able to do this and forgive on the spot, please don’t give up. Spend time praying over it and talking it over with someone who can walk with you. Sooner or later, I pray the Spirit will move you to nail it to the cross once and for all so the wound can finally heal.
Again, there is no one that can teach, sway, or persuade you to forgive unconditionally--that has to come from God. However, if He leads you to do so, then there is no force on earth that can stop you; and you will discover an amazing weight will be lifted and a freedom that can only come through Christ.
I will be praying for you.
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry, the coauthor of The Daddy Gap, and the cofounder of the Midwest Single Parenting Summit. He is an ordinary guy who chases after an extraordinary God. Matt lives with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids, MI. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.