My mother died a few years ago. Truth be told we parted on not-so-good terms. One of the last conversations we had ended in a pretty bad argument. It had been brewing for years. I had questions. Why did she continue to marry men who were abusive? (She and my dad married and divorced each other three different times.) My dad never changed when I was a child…always the same angry drunk, abusive, into illegal printing of pornography, and all the stuff that goes along with that. He was arrested in downtown Minneapolis for indecent exposure. That got OUR family name in the paper – not many people with our last name around. Suddenly, my friends couldn’t come over to play anymore. I would call and have to talk to their dads and listen to why my best friends could not come over to my house any more. I was in third grade, and had no way to process this. I could go on with stories, but you get the idea. Then she married Dick, my stepdad, who was also a drunk. In between the marriages between my dad and then Dick, she slept with truckers who would stop in at her small-town drive-in on the edge of town. She was only trying to find the love she so desperately needed – that we all so desperately need.Then there was my younger brother. Molested in the boys restroom at school in the small town of Alden Iowa by some high school boys, he grew up thinking that is what he was brought to earth for – an object of pleasure for others. He is in an Iowa prison.
I’ll never forget the night that it all came to a head – I, living in TX and my mom living in Iowa. I am not in any way faultless in this whole thing, I am just sharing a story. I was struggling to sense of all the pain of my childhood. I was angry that all of mom’s maternal resources – emotional, caring, time, thoughts, etc. went to my younger brother who was making choices that he knew were wrong. I was angry that my mom continued to expose me to abusive situations, never came down to visit me, or her grandchildren. I lost it with her. A year later she was dead from cancer. She never smoked a day in her life, but her lung cancer, I am sure, was from all the smokers that she married. We did talk a couple of times in between and sort-of patched things up, but my heart was still hurting deeply by some pretty serious mother wounds – that I never admitted existed. I always kept the strong front. “Nothing is bothering me.” I would say she was forgiven, but not really fully explore the pain I had stuffed away, because it was easier to ignore it than to acknowledge it.
When I found out that they were doing Freedom ministry training at church, I was ecstatic and signed up. My boss was gracious enough to give me the whole week off, so I was set to go! I know I found a true treasure in the Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church. I’ve watched people be truly set free from things in a single moment that others have gone through years of counseling to get nowhere with. A woman set free from a heroin and prostitution cycle with no withdrawal and no relapse (at least for 7 years so far). A man set free from a 20 year addiction to drinking and drugs and violence. A woman set free from 11 years of bed-ridden depression. A 16-year-old girl set free from an eating disorder that took her through 6 of the best treatment centers in the US with no lasting results, but when exposed to the Freedom of Jesus, was set free and is now eating healthy and enjoying a professional career as a counselor.
So, I am at this training and on Tuesday morning, we were doing an exercise where we were to ask God if there was an area in our life where we needed to forgive another person for something. Not forgiving somebody is one the single largest reasons for people not being able to live in victory in Jesus and living freely. Forgiveness is freedom, grudges are prison. Forgiveness is primarily for the victim, not the perpetrator. I had this little voice in the back of my head say “Your mom.” I thought to myself, “I’ve already dealt with my mom issues – that stuff is done.” I felt the impression again – “your mom, and you are denying it.” I said “No I’m not!” We were going to take a break, and were going to come back and go through another exercise. As we were breaking, a kind woman came up and said these words to me, “Can I be a mother to you?” I kinda froze, hoping things weren’t going to get weird in public….but all she did was straighten my collar, then give me a hug.
Oh, great! Here we go! That “small act” took perhaps 3 or 4 seconds. But in those few seconds, God spoke to me volumes, memories and feelings and demonstrated that I still carried around in my mind and heart something I had absolutely no business carrying. Unforgiveness. Hurt. Pain. Death. It was gunk – pure and simple. Kinda like the leftover parts from a science lab on dissection. What was I going to do with it plant a garden? Develop a new line of aromatic Potpourri? I had an unforgiving spirit, and hurt and pain – a major infection of the spirit and soul that was oozing puss and “icky stuff” – and in my great intelligence and wisdom I had convinced myself was not really there.
Scripture is really clear. Remember the story about the guy who was forgiven a great sum of money that he could not repay to his master, but then turned around and demanded a friend of his pay him back the $5 he was owed, and when his friend couldn’t repay him, had him thrown into jail? The man’s original master who had forgiven him the great sum of money did not take really kindly to that.
In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” –Matthew 18:34-35
Wow! You mean that my spiritual struggles that I have been unable to break free from are possibly, maybe, perhaps due to the fact that I have this grudge I am hanging onto? But my mom is dead! Perhaps that will get me off the hook? The Lord was really clear. “How has that worked for you so far dude?” He had a point. Why I would choose infection over wellness is beyond me, but I had been doing that. But now in a second – a lightning flash – the Lord had spoken truth through a simple act of love that was undeniable.
I went into the hall, found a corner to cry in, and then forgave my mom. I then asked God’s forgiveness for refusing to listen to Him, and told Him I chose His forgiveness for my mom, and that I also forgave her. When a little girl’s abusive and alcoholic dad commits suicide when she is young, it has an impact on her and her future family. I understood.
Mom, I love you. I am sorry for the pain YOU had as a little girl. Jesus was there. Did you know He was? Thank you for trying the best you knew how to raise us kids. I am glad that now you are experiencing the true, pure, and consuming love from the true Father in heaven. As I write this in Gateway’s coffee shop, ironically, the song playing is Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine.” I am glad you are finally free and living in the love you were designed for. Save me a place!
(P.S. Thank you lady who straightened my collar and allowed God to use you as my surrogate mom for 4 seconds…you were used, and you were successful in being used!)