When I carry our first babe home from the hospital, I carry him home alone.
My husband can’t get off work.
He works for my Dad.
And I remember a little girl waiting four hours for the father to pick her up after school and the wild fear that rounded her eyes, white moons in the thickening dusk.
And I remember it too, the way her hair flew when the father flung her and the slamming and a door nailed shut on a Christmas afternoon.
And when the father was asked to give her hand away in marriage, how he’d asked the courter doubtful, “Why would you want to do that?”
And I rock the baby and I’m the one weeping and it only takes me another decade or two to soothe the years with the truth: Nurse resentment and you are are never released and forgive your parents for the past or the past forever holds you, a permanent child.
I’ve got to figure out how to do this, how to honor the parent, because didn’t God promise that without that nothing else can go well?
It’s only forgiveness that gives a future.
Our first baby grows into a man. His mother fails him. On a colossal and daily scale. I cry at the kitchen sink.
My father grows crows feet at the eyes, strands of pure white at the temples. He calls me on Sundays.
I ask him about my kid brother. “So John’s maybe thinking about asking out that woman that lives in that farmhouse the other side of the river?” Silence seeps in, a sludge. I stare out the window.
Two black ravens sit atop the lilac bush. I wait. Dad speaks.
“You think your brother’s really marriage material?” I’m weighted right through. I can hardly lift words.
“Dad.” I name him. He is mine, the one that God purposed to give, and to me, and that makes him a gift. Can I accept him as a gift and the child parents the parent and doesn’t a child often lead?
I think of it, how experts suggest imagining a parent as an infant, a child of God, envision holding them close, before their own wounding and battering. They suggest that this heals old sores. My mind tries.
“Dad —” I say it slow, soft. “Please. I wonder if one of the reasons John isn’t married is because you told him over and over again just that —- that he wasn’t marriage material? Please — let’s not.” One of the ravens fly east.
“I said that to him? I’d never say that to him. Ever.” I can hear his pain.I swallow mine hard.
“Dad? You told each of us we weren’t marriage material — countless times.” I lean on the windowsill, slide down, sit on its hard edge. The window pane’s cool on my back. I can feel the clouds. He’s not speaking to me?
“Dad? I forgive you….” This is the one thing I can do, the one thing I’ve got the power to decide, and I do, because it’s always in the forgiving that wrongs begin to right.
The Father forgave the prodigal before he confessed (Luke 15:20) and God provided my forgiveness before I asked, and isn’t this the Kingdom I’m orienting to, the compassion before the confession?
I am a daughter failed and I am a parent failing and I know it in ways now I never knew: if I rip apart the bridge of forgiveness for my own parents with my own hands, I destroy the only way my own children can come to me.
This is the work that every person born of a woman, fathered of a man, must do to become an adult: embrace the reality of the first person who held us. Isn’t this always a child’s hardest and continual work?
“I really said none of you kids were marriage material?” Dad’s voice is shrill. “What kind of monster says things like that?”
Monster. Is he saying that about himself? Or that’s what he thinks I think of him? I can feel it in my chest, his begging cry behind the bravado. And my own tears for a little girl and her daddy. How do I heal him? Heal me? Parenting cracks not only a child’s sense of self — it cracks the parent’s sense of self. Oh Dad. I close my eyes.
I don’t see a monster.
I see the sad child behind all the years. I hear his cry. And it’s the unmet expectations in life that undo us. That’s what’s hurting in Dad’s aching pitch. What’s hurting in me. Expecting the world of ourselves and much of the world —and us all crashing and burning and hurting. What if we laid down the expectations — of our parents and of ourselves and of perfection — so we could hold each other?
Just let it all go. Let it all go.
“I love you, Dad.”
“Yeah?” His voice chokes. And then it comes hard and fast and it’s gone and I can let go of the rest but this I won’t forget. “Love you too.”
And maybe in the end a child and parent just return to that, what they had in the the beginning:
The love that conceived.
So no one goes home alone.
Three Ways to Forgive our Parents
1. Be a Screen Door
Like the wind blows through a screen door, let blustry comments, stormy blasts just blow right past. Incidents can only hit hard if you have your front door closed. But having a screen door policy allows all the pain to blow by….
2. Only Believe the Best
When you believe that everyone is always just doing their best, that we never war against flesh and blood but against the principalities, that in light of their own limitations, they truly are doing their best… this changes everything. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things and whatever is good and pure and lovely, think on these things.
3. Tell the Thankful Truth
The truth is, there is always something, a lot, to give thanks for and that is the truth about every single parent. Consider offering a father, a mother, the gift of a jar full of slips of paper with your gratitude and thankful memories jotted down. This kind of grateful truth-telling heals the old wounds.
It’s All Perspective: Shift the Frame to Really See
How to Make Your Own Telling the Thankful Truth Jar
How have you worked on forgiveness in your life? How can we pray for you on your journey?
Photos and Text: Ann Voskamp@Holy ExperienceLeave a Comment
Very beautiful and raw. I can feel my own struggles in this. Sometimes, I don’t think parents know that what we need is to forgive them and they need us to forgive them and then we need to know we’re loved. They need to know this too. Of course, I think you can also forgive someone, a parent, without inviting them into your life. Because we forgive does not mean that we are required to invite an abusive person back into our lives. God gives us wisdom to know when we should and should not do this. My bio father is one of these. He is in prison for life, for murder and other heinous crimes and while I have forgiven him, he is not a safe person to have involved in my life or those of my children. I was able to do the same thing mentioned in the story above, with my stepdad who was my Daddy. He accepted Christ and was baptized while battling stage 4 lung cancer. He died the day after his baptism. I’m so glad God gave us the closure and forgiveness that we were able to experience before he died.
Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says
Oh, Ann. I have so many takeaways from this. I want so much to be a flexible forgiver instead of the rim rod 2 X 4 position I sometimes assume. I want my compassion and my love to show before the confession does.
You are beautiful, Ann, in a hundred different ways. God bless and keep you and yours!
I just recently found your blog and have been moved by your writing. I don’t know my birth father and my birth mother died when I was a toddler. I have a strained relationship with my adoptive parents and struggle with forgiving them for emotional and physical pain they’ve caused me. I am a parent and can empathize with the struggles they had with me especially during adolescence. I appreciate your point to Tell the Thankful Truth but I’m not sure about the Screen Door and letting painful comments pass by. (Not so much past but ongoing). Something I need to ponder and pray about. Maybe I’m clouded by hurt and anger.
What courage it must have taken to confront your dad about the marriage material comment. Thank you for your honesty. Look forward to reading more of your work.
Janine Robinson says
An honest post is always what I have learnt to expect from you. Thank you for your openness in this post. I can see your pain as well as your dads. It hit a nerve with me because I have had to learn to forgive my sweet dad too … many, many times. Now that I am a parent, I so clearly see my own faults and frailties. I’m so glad that I have always had Jesus to negotiate my emotions, disappointments and fears with. I have also learnt the principle of continuously guarding my heart against judgement and when I recognise it’s ugly traits to choose to rather release God’s mercy towards myself and the person who hurts me. The freedom for me came when I realized that it is never “my” mercy that will heal and free my dad from his poor choices and pain, but it is JESUS mercy! The power of His mercy is something we all have to give, because it is the very mercy that redemms and frees each of us. Sending you an AMLIGHTY hug Ann. I can so see Jesus sitting in that car with you as you have brought each baby lamb home! He is celebrating you and the sweet treasures He has entrusted to you. Much love xoxox
When reading I thought how amazing is it that the harm you have received can be redirected for good and healing. Your children are blessed to have a mother who allows the Lord to work in her life. At first reading your blog daily was painful. The happy family photos and stories of homeschooling. It has helped me heal from not being able to have children. I was not nursing a resentment but the outcome was the same. I was ignoring my own pain. I refused to go near it. Today I am not comparing and healing. Thanks Ann!
Realizing my mother did the best she could really helped me break the cycle. Your words here, precious.
JD in Canada says
For me, it’s seeing it all as an opportunity to give the gift of grace and forgiveness, the same gift that My Father has given me so often… the gift meant to be shared in return.
My father abused me for the first 18 years of my life, he is a very broken man… but aren’t we all broken? Don’t we all need His love, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness? Withholding it from anyone will only serve to let the enemy win. It will slowly poison us. My father and satan have robbed me of enough, I refuse to let them rob me of anything more, especially His gifts.
The only way that I can assure that satan will not win his battle to seek, kill and destroy in this situation… is by seeing it from God’s perspective — an opportunity to share the gifts He has given me. To share them with the one who has hurt me the most.
And I have.
It’s my gift, to both my father, and My Father. And to myself.
Let my life of forgiveness and love lead him to the cross.
Becky Ramsey says
Ann, I am blown away by the honesty of this post. And by your beautiful forgiveness, and the love you have for your dad. What a gift to him to not run away or build tall walls, to speak truth in complete and brave love.
So much truth in this Ann. “Compassion before confession”. How often I need to offer this and yet rarely do. Thank you for such a beautiful post and for reminding me that I need my kids forgiveness just as much as I need to offer it.
This is so powerful. I have struggled similarly for so long, made great strides, fallen again miserably, and presently am at a place with my parents where there is no outward unrest, but when I envision having the type of conversation you’ve described, I shutter. The idea of my dad’s hard exterior breaking down and even being able to converse openly is unimaginable. I am encouraged this morning to continue to ask God for this opportunity, even though it scares me silly.
One other thought on this topic…over the years, as I have sought communication with them on deeper issues, and have even gone so far as to apologize for different things, it is almost as if they (my dad especially) do not WANT to be forgiven. Not willing to accept the love, not willing to enter back in. The shame is too great? It’s still a mystery to me why we as families stay in these places of great pain.
My journal awaits:)
Lori @ Couponomic Stimulus Package says
Such truth! It’s true that you can forgive, but you’ll never completely forget. My parents we kept away from me through my growing up years because of a family business that kept them always working. My mom has had serious health issues the last 1 1/2 years and I finally feel like I get to have my mom and it’s been so healing. It still hurts when I think of the abandonment I felt as a child, but it’s helping with the healing and God knew that and He also knew she’d never slow down without some serious problems.
Thank you for these words.
Ah yes, to forgive, to honor.
The forgiveness offered to my mom has been a long process. For various things under the umbrella of her finally leaving us. All of us. But namely, my dad.
She and I have a relationship now, a really good one. I am so thankful for that. But really, it came from me having to forgive. Several times over. For new injustices, even.
I have to agree with you on your steps to forgiveness. “Only believe the best” is where I like to leave things now. I look back on the childhood years and begin to see where things turned for her- losing a child, being diagnosed with a painful, degenerative illness, married into the ministry (which is so stressful)- and I can only believe that she did what she had to do to get through. Us kids were only caught in the cross-fire of her having to figure her ‘stuff’ out.
So much pain here. From your Dad. From you. Yet, the love of Messiah holds you both. Your father does love you Ann.
There are so many people who love, but don’t know how to love if that makes any sense. Somehow what they feel that is fine and beautiful is lost between their hearts and their actions.
It seems to me that your Dad is a prisoner inside himself. It is so lovely to see your heart reaching to connect with his. And in this moment you made that connection deeply.
Thank you for sharing this moment with us. It gives me much to think about. About my mom and dad and about myself, parenting my children.
I’m reading a book right now called Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp that seems so wise and helpful in pulling me back from continuing to live the distanced life as a parent that I’ve been having a tendency towards. I highly, highly recommend it. It’s about parents and teens, but I deeply wish I’d had it years before my older children merged into their teen years.
Much love to you and yours!
Carolyn Wilker says
Though my experience is not yours, Ann, everyone has disappointments while growing up.
There’s nothing like being a parent to realize how challenging the task of parenting can be. Time to say it again perhaps.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts so clearly. Your light is clearly a beacon to other hurting souls, including your father’s. Bless you for your ministry through this blog.
tammy@if meadows speak says
What a beautiful post. In the last couple of years I’ve had to face this head on. To forgive the failings (because I fail too) and accept my parents the way they are. Not the way I’d like them to be. It’s been liberating and hard at times, but rewarding by laying down the expectations. Even though unvoiced, those expectations always ‘speak’ loudly in their silence. And their burden felt even deeper. So good to lay them down. My load is lighter for it and so is my relationship with my parents. So good Anne for you to write this and be reminded again.
This is a wonderful post….I love the honesty. I grew up abused and didn’t tell my mom until I was 41…my mom grew up abused from the same person. It seems my whole family knew about this and no one ever said anything. I confronted my mom and she still doesn’t talk about it. I forgive her but I am still angry with her in some ways. It is a big step and a long road…thank the Lord he is there with me.
Thank you for your blog and all that you post. God bless you and your family.
Such a great post! I’m the product of an abusive parent. Verbal, physical and emotional!
The only way I could deal with it….besides forgiveness, was to recognize she didn’t know any better.
She just wasn’t skilled as a mom. I can’t put much pressure on her–she was a teenage mother and had grown up with abuse herself.
She has told me in the last couple years (I’m 43 now) what a great mom I am. Those words were magic!
She also mentioned having so many regrets! I call that….a break through!
Thank you Ann!
I needed this today. I’m about to see my Dad again—first time in about 7 years. I have wounds. Scars, really.
He told my husband on our wedding day that I would never be a good wife. He might have been a little right 😉
I don’t know how this visit will go, but one thing I am sure of—I don’t want to live with the same kind of bitterness that has eaten him alive. With God’s help, I won’t.
Pro 4:23 Keep[to guard]thy heart with all diligence[a guard]; for out of it are the issues[deliverance] of life. I love to read and experance your heart. Wisdom you give even to those more mature in age. Thanks for the shareing of wisdom.
this i understand. xox
zoe (in England) says
Oh we just had a conversation this morning where my husband told me of a conversation he had on the phone with my dad the other night. My dad said to my husband “I always told the girls they could do and be whatever they wanted.” I was speechless (that’s certainly not what I remember), truly speechless and just laughed and laughed. Figured there was no point hanging on to it and laughing was better than crying.
To forgive is one thing but how far can you trust? Does trust have to go hand in hand with forgiveness? This is what I struggle with. I see your Dad playing games with your children and I ache.
My father sexually abused me all my young life. He is a minister. He said, “Sorry.” Doesn’t that make it better? Should I be able to leave my kids with my parents because he said, “Sorry.” I can’t and I won’t so I’m accused of not really having forgiven.
Thanks for sharing…
Sandy McAllister says
With tears for for both you and Dad and a glorious knowing that God can heal all wounds my heart goes out to you. I lost my Dad at 91 in April and I had much forgiveness to give. He brought much pain to the family through his drinking. and sexual abuse. Forgiveness is an act of the will, working through the pain takes time. Trust is another matter. Dad too had much pain from his childhood and as I understood that more my heart broke for him.
Daisy You are wise to protect your children from your father. Forgiveness does not mean that trust is automatically restored.
Blessings to everyone who’s heart is broken by a parent.
Jeanine Q says
Feeling this personally. I say make sure to forgive before they’re not here with us any more and tell them how they can be with Jesus when they leave. Lots of painful memories, but lots of forgiveness just the same in my heart. Thanks for a beautiful post on this weekend.
Sharon O says
This is a wonderful awesome writing …
I could see both of you as your words painted the scene on a canvas of white. You are an amazingly gifted writer. I have come to your blog many times with a heart to receive what you offer.
Thank you for sharing …
How I long for this for my sister Ann. Such perfect wisdom and love.
Elizabeth Mahlou says
At least, your father saw the negatives in his behavior (although he did not believe, or was not willing to admit) that he had behaved that way. My mother, abusive both emotionally and physically (and gave us over to male relatives to be abused physically) does not deny what she did (!!) but she denies that any of it was wrong. Rather, she insists that we are ungrateful for the “discipline” and “life experience” that she provided for us. Still, we go on, all eight of us, long ago having forgiven her for she did not know what she was doing — and still doesn’t. We all returned to Maine for her 80th birthday anniversary two years ago. We stay in minimum but cordial touch. We honor her as our parent; we love her as a child of God; being a close and highly interactive friend, however, may always be out of the question. Fortunately, God does not ask the latter of us.
Reading your words brings back floods of memories. I have gone through so much time remembering things my parents said and wondering how?, how could a parent say that to a child?
And I have had to forgive, move on. Yet somedays wounds are opened again, as if they were new. And sometimes they are new. And I try…
Thank you for your story.Thank you for your ways to forgive your parents. I will add them to my own.
Bonnie Buckingham says
Very personal and YOU give words to the wounds of the heart. It took me 20 some years to forgive my dad for leaving my mom. God doesn’t leave you in despair very long. It is a story over a couple of days of healing as I flew to NY to see him after being convicted to forgive him. Thank you for your words that give life and hope ~~ beauty that comes in the Gospel!
Niki Turner says
This was a weeper, in a good way. Thank you for sharing.
Robin in New Jersey says
Oh Ann…can you share sometime in the future more about your dad. What caused him to be the way he was?
Forgiveness: I realized that my parents were doing the best they could and they did not have good examples to follow.
Amazing, helpful beyond words and timely. My father is dead 8 years and I still need to do this. Also goes with Serena’s take on forgiveness here: http://www.graceisforsinners.com/life/in-the-name-of-all-that-is-holy/
This is a cancer in my world today. Not with my father, but with other loved ones. My husband is deeply wounded by an abusive childhood. Can we keep using that as an excuse to be cruel and unforgiving? No. My beautiful father had much abuse in his childhood, but he chose the more excellent way to grow and live his life. He has been the best father ever to me and I am so grateful he refused to let bitterness and unforgiveness turn him into a monster.
My daughter has left some scars on my heart. Teenage years are hard. Pray for healing for us.
Ann, I am so very sorry for the wounds you have experienced. But I am very grateful for the beauty God is creating through your wounds. The enemy to our souls works hard to capture hearts in the tender youth. Only Christ can heal besetting sins that are embedded so deeply that we can’t even see them. You are healing broken hearts and twisted minds the enemy thought he had stolen. Praise God for those who come alongside us today to heal the wounds that we cannot see, but have us sick. God bless you and give you His own love in abundance. Your Heavenly Father knows that you are a precious pearl. How beautiful you are to Him. He created you for good and with a purpose. Love much. Love much. Love covers a multitude of sins. This can change our world…
Thanks for this. My father died a year ago, and I don’t have a way to physically offer forgiveness. I struggle with that quite a bit. There’s lots of anger- lots to forgive. I’ve been going through a rough patch over the last year because of that. It’s been interesting to think that all the detritus I buried, trying to ignore it, is all coming out now. There’s healing there, like finally getting to the source of an infection, but oh, the pain as I do.
Thanks so much for your writing, Ann, and indeed all the women on the Incourage site. I take away so much from your (collective) honesty.
Thank you, simply, thank you.
I don’t agree with this. My dad sexually molested me and the only thing to do was cut him out of my life. I don’t want him to do that to my own children.
Sharon Leitzell says
What a beautiful post, Ann. I have had to walk a long road of needing healing from my past. I turned it inward….that there was something wrong with me. I am on the road to seeing the great lie that is.
I am better understanding our mistakes as parents and seeing how sin is a spiritual problem that the only answer is forgiveness through Christ. And that just as I am not perfect in my own ways, neither were my parents.
With that being said, I can’t help but respond to Daisy’s comment. It is MORE than okay to have forgiven and not allow your children to be around your dad. The fact that you do not feel confident in being able to trust your father absolutely does not mean that you haven’t forgiven him. Forgiveness and trust are two seperate issues. Do not let anyone make you feel that because you are protecting your children, you have not forgiven, or that you are a bad christian, or are not trusting God. All of those are lies.
Another Mom says
Thank you Ann.
My struggle is not that my parents have made so many wrong choices – because so much of what they did was right or was at least in the right direction. What grieves me is that they have consistently done the right things with wrong motives and attitude. And yet when offered an alternate (and maybe even better) path in the same direction, they refuse to even acknowledge it.
As a parent, I understand the paradox of how easy it is to mess up while doing the right thing. It took me a long time to piece things together with grace and forgiveness. My siblings haven’t been thus blessed.
While I know in my heart I need to have a conversation like yours, I haven’t because there is no repentance because there is no perceived need for repentance. There is only frustration because “God is punishing them.” So I am silent, knowing His hand of Providence is at work. Somewhere.
I see myself in this except for the end. Why is it so hard to forgive. I am not close to my dad and I blame it on my past. God, in all his grace has forgiven me even with my past and I say I want to be like Jesus! I see so many areas of my life were I do not have victory and I know that unforgiveness plays such a part in this. Thank you for sharing and being real. May the Lord restore for you what the locust have eaten!
I went through a number of years laying in hospital beds alone. My parents never came. Then it got easier to go through it without them there. I was hurt and alone and felt judged and a burden. Then I let go and stopped putting my expectations of what a parent should be on them. I stopped putting what I saw my friends parents do as an expectation for my own. I realized they did what they were capable of. What they were equipped to do. They didn’t have the capacity to look at their sick child back then. I had to forgive and let go before I could fully handle being sick myself.
It’s so true that holding hurt only hurts us. It’s also true that letting go is hard. This was beautiful, Ann. As always.
The Crimson Beloved says
Yesterday I prayed for the strength to be able to handle Father’s day.
This mornings phone call requested my presence(ordered) into the lion’s pen tonight to celebrate Father’s Day.
Tonight, I will go boldly forth, as “a screen door” into the mist of those who would take glee in my pain. I will trust in the Lord that they are doing their best and give them the mercy that they need. I remind myself that they are the ones the Jesus misses the most. I will go bearing gifts of love and bearing nothing emotionally home with myself.
As usual Ann your writing draws me in..paints a picture so well. Your such a blessing as a writer.
i have been thinking about forgiveness a lot these days. When it comes to our parents.
Holding on to it…is tough if not tougher the letting it go..We do not forget but it frees us up to let us move to a better place.
Making sure they know we love them regardless blesses us and them as well.
I love this and so needed to hear it.
Wishing you blessings. Always.
Laurie Wallin says
Ann, thank you for your faithfulness to share. Like you, I have dark memories from childhood, raised by a single mom with untreated mental illness. I still have scars, physically, mentally, emotionally. But like you I’ve found the joy in the thankful truth. I am so grateful for the spontaneity she brought to my life, and for the ways she taught me to love the ones who challenge us.
I do it now as a mom of two adopted foster kids – both with mental illnesses – and every day feel the Lord has brought them in to my life to redeem the brokenness of long ago.
His work in our hearts hurts so much sometimes. But like you remind us, allowing His redeeming work is the work we’re about here in life.
May the joy of the Lord continue to overwhelm the areas in your life that sting.
Love and blessings,
Thanks for sharing this….really touched my heart…encourages me.
Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama says
So much truth it makes my heart ache.
Lisa H. says
I am struggling with this right now. Years and years of pain, feeling completely unloved and unlovable from my parents–mom mostly. We havent spoken in 10 years, its been 12 sinced I’ve spoken to my dad. I’m in counseling now trying to deal with the emotional turmoil from this disownment and other things from my childhood. Forgiveness is hard, its harder when there is no chance for reconciliation. I’m trying to form a letter to my mom but its hard to do and not fill it with the bitterness and anger I have for her, so the pages are blank right now. I have pulled out pictures but I cant seem to look at them either. So just pray for this process to be guided by God and not by my emotions.
cindy morris says
I to make my children see their father in a good light. Yet he continues to drink and do drugs and forget them. I try to teach them forgiveness. I know that I have to for give him for making his children fatherless. I know if they see me forgive then they too might begin to forgive.
Susan McCurdy says
Beautiful post with a powerful reminder. Isn’t it funny how we can all be so different yet so alike …right down to the little brother’s named John who never married most likely because he, too, never felt worthy. You are brave. God smiles and Satan shivers when we forgive! That is the power of the resurrection!
This post beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness. Thank you for writing.
“Grateful truth-telling” and letting it go are ways that I work on forgiveness. A heart of compassion and understanding goes a long way in walking out the decision to forgive. In my experience, forgiveness can heal two hearts at once.
For a whole host of reasons why, I can’t link to this on any of my sites b/c of the conversation that would follow in my own situation. For a whole host of reasons why, I can’t mention them here, but I needed to read this.
And I will be reading it again.
Thank you, Ann.
It was because of this forgiveness I could move past the first 20 years of my life. By letting that pain go I’ve been blessed with a father who is now one of my best friends. Sometimes growing up I didnt understand why my parents didn’t love me. Now I know they did just didn’t know how to show it. I have learned these lessons and my girls know love. Thank you for this post for making me remember the power of forgiveness.
Oh…I dont even know what to say, your post has me in tears, which isnt something Im easy to admit to…Very powerful post… Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful post as usual Ann. Thankful for you and your honest writing.
In His Love,
It is a fact (to me anyway) that what is
done to us by our parents can affect us the
rest of our lives. I am now closing in on
70 years, and still sorting out what
happened while I was growing up. Think I
have finally put all the pieces together
and figured out why things were done and
said for the most part. Forgiveness is
so important but sometimes a process to
work through. Now I know that the Lord was
there with me while I was growing up, and He
saw that little girl and He loved her like
no one else could, and He hurt when she
was abused. He gave her a special understanding when she was emotionally
abused and not shown love. And because she
wanted so much to be loved, she grew up
and was given her own family who she showed
much love to. She was able to tell her
parents that she loved them (and forgive
them in her heart), and to realize that
none of us is perfect. If God can forgive
us and accept us, then we must also do the
same. Life isn’t easy, but Jesus is there
constantly abiding with us, through the
good times and the not so good times.
I’m still learning, but so thankful for
my heavenly Father who leads the way.
Thank you Ann for your wisdom and sharing.
You are a blessing.
That was indeed a lovely lovely post. I long to be more and more screen door as days go by. Thank you.
forgiveness . .Ann, thank you for sharing . .and for the reminder it is a process that we must face over and over – today I struggle with forgiving my son. My father died when I was a little girl and I have always missed him – -especially on Father’s day. My son, committed a crime and is in jail. His children are young, but they will spend these early years without their father. and I am struggling to forgive him – for commiting the crime and for what this is doing to his children. I love my son, deeply, but oh it hurts so much for all we are missing. I know he is deeply hurt by his actions – – but oh, the consequences. How they hurt us all. . .I prayed after reading your words today, that my grandchildren will be people of forgiveness, compassion and love. Thank you for guiding me to that prayer.
Thanks so much for being real and delving into the “not nice” subjects. My dad is no longer living, but on this Father’s day my memories are bittersweet. He was one of those that needed my forgiveness. He was estranged from us for many years. Yet in God’s providence, we did get the time for reconciliation and forgiveness. It gave me some peace, especially when he unexpectedly passed at 65. We are to honor our parents, not just if they deserve it…. Janet
Thank you for this post. I am in process of forgiving, and have forgiven much. My father now has Alzheimers disease and so I try to just enjoy the time we have left together as father and daughter. To forgive him is not difficult. My mother on the other hand does not remember much of what she said or did, but this was not originally caused by memory loss due to aging. I prayed for and received forgiveness from God…I only had one night with her where we actually meshed…I am her least favourite child…but I got the closure I needed to heal myself…Thank you Jesus! My sister, will never get the closure she needs…nor will my brothers. The worst (for my mother) is that I am the only child close enough (living nearby) who does the day to day run for medication and groceries, doctor’s appointments etc. It must be so hard for her to have to deal with me daily. Turns out she is looking for my approval…something she never taught me to give. The hardest part is that she is as yuck to me now as she ever was and so this forgiveness must come almost daily. That I can function this way shows without a doubt that this is God’s will for my life…but I will now leave my child alone with them for any length of time…they don’t get to do this to another child…
My dad died two weeks ago. This is a tough Father’s Day. He was sick for seven months and we prayed for healing. We got it – he wasn’t healed physically, but most of us had the opportunity to make our peace with Dad over those months. Forgiveness is a gift that blessed the giver as much as the recipient. Don’t wait with it.
Amazing as I read thru the comments, and hear the little girls in us that have so longed for our daddy’s love. I heard the same words, Ann,growing up. It’s one reason we eloped 25 years ago yesterday. 😉 I am thankful that total healing will take place in heaven – no more bitter words, no more working on forgiveness, no more turning away or rejecting. Complete, forever, healing.
Something I needed to read. I wasn’t abused…my father divorced my mother when I was an infant, gave me up for adoption to her second husband, etc…lots more to the story. I met my natural father when I was 18, only to have the relationship severed a few months later, restored when I was about 30, only to have it severed again later. I’m 44 now. It’s hard for me to understand, it’s hard to know if what I feel is true forgiveness. I don’t have the opportunity to speak to him because he chooses not to be a part of my life.
This was still something I needed to read and process. Oddly enough, or not as the case may be, I’m starting a class at church tonight on forgiveness.
Dearest Ann, As always I love your writing, your openness and honesty. Today’s writing is no different and although I didn’t experience this pain with my Dad I did indeed with my mom, who died before I was old enough to forgive. It is hard when you grow up not being cherished and nutured; but I’ve come to know forgiveness and that the pain made me into the woman I am today, the mom I am today and I praise God for it.
It drew me to Himself…as it has drawn you.
Blessings on you as you continue to forgive and heal and love unconditionally, just like our Lord.
Hugs to you today.
deb @ talk at the table says
I don’t know how to convey all that I want to in a few sentences.
Your honesty, your brave and gracious merciful heart and hands bring so much to others. I hope you are wrapped in the love and comfort and grace today and everyday. I wish that those long ago days were different. For you, for all of us.
We show His love by ours.
I was shattered by the things you shared, knowing there is more you haven’t.
love love to you,
Oh, Ann – you shook my world with this post. I must make my Mom a jar and I must be a screen door with her. And I must ask my Heavenly Father to help me with this daily.
If I might beg you to please pray for my grown son and his Dad (my husband) who have built some walls around their relationship and don’t seem to be able (or willing – either of them) to tear them down. I lay them at the feet of Jesus and I pray that they will be reconciled. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Beautifully written, this brought tears!
I’m learning a lot about forgiveness from a Christian counselor. He told me that forgiveness and reconciliation are 2 different things. One can forgive unilaterally, but it takes 2 to reconcile-and only after trust is re-established. He also says we don’t have to (should not ever) forget-because there are lessons we must learn-like not to submit our kids to an abusive parent. And my favorite is a quote from Anne Lamott: “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” Personally, I’ve been trying to remember all the times I’ve hurt others (not to beat myself up), but to remind myself that I have had to be forgiven so many times myself–and it helps me to slide off of that self righteous pedistal I’ve constructed for myself–and rejoin the human race. Grace to us all…
Bernice Shupe says
I just want to hug you, Ann,and hold you long! Thanks for being so open and honest with us – sharing your heart. What memories! What godly advise. What a spokesman for God you are! The screen door policy will be applied and passed on. How easy it is to think on just the negative points of my son, Peter. Will try to focus on the positive. He is such a good dad! The happy times of years ago have been pushed way back in my memory. Must refocus. The same with memories of Daddy and Grandpa. You are getting me on the right track, dear Ann. Will focus on six godly sons and dear Tom! He always took me home from the hospital! Did he appreciate your post! Loving you through tears and smiles! 🙂
Heather T says
I literally had to choke down reading this post! For me… it hits home with a bang. A girls vision of her daddy should never be hurt or hatred. But for me… that’s all i’ve known since a teen. An it is painful. Because as a girl grows into a woman we long to hear his approval and encouragement… not his anger and ugliness spewing forth like a burst in a hose. Spraying one so fast and feirce you can’t see the knob to crank it off. All you feel is the fast, painful spikes of water straight in your eyes… or in this case your heart.
Trying to move forward… this has been the hardest thing in my life, marriage, and days to overcome- the hurt from your father. Why does this seem so much harder to forgive or over come than anyother sin or hurt?? I’ve been to counseling. I’ve talked it over with my spouse countless times as he is privy to the ugliness and would like to knock my dad’s head for a loop many times. I want to move forward. I try but I continually fail. Because just as soon as I start satan opens his mouth and out comes more.
I have asked the Lord to help me get over this. Help me stop being hurt by it. But this goes against every fabric of my being because i’d have to become cold hearted to let his words repel off me. Instead, they wreck every seemingly happy moment of my life.
I have resolved to pray to the Lord for revelation for my father of how much the Lord loves him because i’m learning that has a trickle down affect and perhaps I could be under that trickle one day for once. If only he saw/ knew how much and how huge God’s love is his life would be forever changed.
Until then… trying to let these words work in me.
I love your story and I admire your courage as you spoke to your father in a loving, yet truthful manner.
However, I am really struggling with what you wrote regarding numbers 1 and 2. Are you saying put these in place after really working through the hurts or just anytime you see them or are around them, just letting them say things and being ok with it. It’s kind of confusing to me. As I’m seeing my own worth and value, finally, I can’t igore how people treat me. If I want and my parents want a mutual loving relationship with me, there needs to be a mutual loving agreement and conversation. I’m not saying that I would be rude to my parents or disrespectful, but being couragous enough to say, “I feel __________, when I’m spoken to like that.” Plus, I’ve always heard that your kids don’t learn how to treat other people by the way you treat people. Your kids learn how to treat people by the way you allow yourself to be treated.
So, sorry if I took your number 1 and 2 the wrong way. Could you maybe clarify it? Thanks
I read these comments and I ache.
There are so many ways to abuse a child; the intentional (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional) and the unintentional (neglect, absence).
I see these women hurt through both kinds of abuse and I identify with them, each experience leaving a raw wound, an aching void that begs for healing. I also know abuse, of both types. Forgiveness is hard, too hard for me. We want to hear “sorry” – the kind that is spoken from a heart that recognizes our pain and is deeply, profoundly repentant of the wounds inflicted. We think that would make forgiveness easier to extend.
It won’t. Forgiveness is too hard. Too hard for us.
But not for Jesus. As he hung there for us, in the midst of the wounding, the tearing and the agony he prayed, begging an extension of divine grace on their (our) behalf, “Father, forgive them… they know not what they do.”
I need to forgive my father. All I ever wanted was for him to love me, to notice me, to protect me and delight in me. He did not. He still does not. Yet he asks for honor, and deserves none.
Father God, forgive us for we know not all the pain we serve upon each other. Help us to forgive, to love. Fill our empty, broken spaces with your mercy and enable us to grow our broken little-girl spirits into mature women. Women who understand that the beautiful Grace extended to us gives us the power to pray on their behalf, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Thank you so much for your transparency and encouragement. Broken families leave so much hurt. Forgiveness is so important and yet so hard. Somehow we think the other person has to be sorry or earn our forgiveness but thankfully that’s not what Christ teaches us. I can long for things in my life to be different but only the future can be changed through the forgiveness of the past…thank you so much!
To Think Is To Create says
These words, the truth behind them. You are showing us what God meant when He said we are to love our enemies. Sometimes the enemy is obvious, from a foreign country, sometimes it’s that toxic neighbor, but it can also be a family member. A parent. Someone attacking and harsh. Often those are the ones who can hurt us the most.
Forgiveness is to love, thank you for this sweet and gentle reminder.
Danielle Toews says
Your post was so timely for me. I have a mother that has never acted like a mother. The type of mom that introduced her children to drugs ,abandoned them with abusers etc… I had struggled with forgiving her but I had made my peace until recently when she started doing things afresh to my older brother. It is so painful to hear him express how it hurts so much to not be loved or wanted by your own mother. I don’t care how old you are you want your parents to love you. So old wounds dug afresh but even worse some how it’s harder to forgive when it’s someone else’s pain.
I need to forgive her again,choose to forgive. I will never understand her. She came from a lovely home with lovely parents even she says that,I don’t know how she was started on the road she took. Her biggest complaint was her mom was over supportive…. I can’t stay well she didn’t have it that great when she was a kid etc… Some people like Judas make bad decisions no matter who they have been with. They choose themselves over everything else no explaining it and it hurts.
But you are right there is no future without forgiveness. I want my children to know this so I have to choose this for myself.
I love your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so much!
Thank you so much for writing this. Beauitufl and real. Also, it reminded me of this book Gilead (by Marilynne Robinson) that I’m presenting on for a class.
Marty Schoenleber says
Thank you. Two words that you bring to my heart with every word that your write. Thank you to God for pains and sorrows turned into beauty. How marvelous is our all-forgiving God. You honor Him well.
Oh the work our Father starts in and through us women. Oh how He put that ache in us all to be loved by a strong daddy, as a reminder to draw close to him. I read through all the comments, and ached at the re-occurring theme in the stories shared, the vulnerability shown…the lingering pain, the bitterness, the bittersweet, the heart made flesh->the beauty of a woman’s heart. Oh the work God does through us women; breathtaking yet painful; painful yet necessary. Necessary in order to witness that Jesus is He. Forgiveness-a struggle, a command, a choice-the work of God to show his love to a broken world. Oh woman let your beauty shine for those around you by allowing your Father’s holy presence to live through you.
I read this yesterday and I come back to it today
I want to rant and wail and say not fair
I want to lash out at someone
I am crying and hurting because of the pain in my life and my family’s life right now.
the pain caused by sin,
the pain I have caused too
I am also forgiving and choosing to walk in love
and crying out to God and receiving His love
and your writing has helped
i echo jill above me in that i read this, mulled over it, and have come back today. i was like “blah” who wrote that she didn’t agree w/ it.
there are so many of us who’ve been abused. i want to wail, “it’s not fair!” and yet that is so… ineffective.
why do our fathers hurt us, their little girls? i know it’s b/cs of sin, but argh!!!!!
i thought i’d forgiven my dad. but i’m finding that i haven’t, or at least that it’s an ongoing thing and not easily done.
i wish it were easy.
i wish his sin hadn’t formed so much in me: my own ager that lashes out against my children. my fear that my husband will abandon me. the fact that i don’t have a mom and dad in my life.
these hurts are huge, and to be merely a screen door seems sooooo ineffective.
i want HIm to be big in me.
wow, ann. this was powerful and beautiful in its rawness and vulnerability. thank you.
Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience says
I have read each and every comment. Prayed. Ached. Wept. Felt the pressing pain, the burning weight, in my chest. Loved you all with an undying love.
And too, I’ve wondered about the wisdom of my words? I am so broken and fallible and I get it wrong and I haven’t walked your way or known your deep wounds and did the words aid? I beg your grace. And I beg Jesus for the healing and restoration of the past.
Yes, I humbly agree and have so lived: forgiveness is an ongoing process, something we do like Daniel who “purposed in his heart.” It takes purpose… and practice… and, for me, it is an ongoing process. I honor each of your processes with my fervent prayers. You have all my esteem.
And for me, I humbly offer that considering the notion of being “a screen door” has only been effective in that yes, I have repeatedly shared with a parent many of my pains from the past, from the present, and much isn’t understood. I have shared, often I haven’t been heard, and to have ongoing relationship and honor and avoid constant deadlock, sometimes it is best to let negativity “blow by” and live in lavish grace. Like Jesus who sometimes chose silence, this grace too can be helpful modelling for our children.
And too, I entirely agree — it is important to prayerfully discern the times and places to gently share, “When you do X, I feel Y” and to model for our children how we humbly express our pain… Thank you for highlighting this truth — I so appreciate you bringing clarity — I humbly apologize for my lack thereof. I am so sorry — Please pray for me.
I think you all so brave and beautiful and bold in your extravagant grace.
God’s healing is blazingly manifest in this place… in your lives.
You each have all my humble respect….
i just clicked over from alece’s tweet…but wow. this is beautiful. just what I needed. thank you for your vulnerability.
Beth Kirk says
Thoughts: life sucks. God is good. Grace is hard.
Forgiveness does not mean that the sin/abuse was ok. Forgiveness is not permission to be hurt again. Forgiveness is NOT rationalization. and Best of all, Forgiveness is NOT a feeling. These truths about forgiveness have gotten me through some really rough times. I, too, was abused, and I continue to be out of relationship with my parents. I struggle to not wrong my children, and I long for self forgivness as much as anything else.
When I first read all these comments, all the hurt and pain, I got MAD. Probably good I didn’tread on Father’s Day. But there is hope here… lots and lots of hope and I pray peace touches all our wounds. Thank you for your post!
Christy B. says
Thank you, Ann, as always.
There is much I’m not saying, but…thank you.
It’s funny how we can do no wrong and our parents are the ones at fault, until we become parents ourselves, and much of our thoughts turn towards our own shortcomings and failings as a parent. We then see the struggles as an adult caught between the wages of war of the worldliness against our families and homes, and our own personal conflicts that tag along within us. We see us, and our parents grow before our eyes, over time, as the Spirit heals, and gently, lovingly, pats our wounds, bringing us closer to Him, and each other. Sometimes in an unspoken, but understood forgiveness. And there is freedom in that forgiveness. And it feels good.
May I add that to forgive the pain, one must move past denial, see the hurt and offense for what it really is, and recognize that is not “normal.” The beast (the pain, not the person) must be named not only to forgive, but to move past it.
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It is so hard.
Being on this side of it.
And now I’m on the other side of it. I’m the parent doing things to screw up my own kids.
I already feel like I’ve failed them in so many ways and they are still so young. It breaks my heart and makes me want to run for the hills sometimes.
I want to do better. More. Be different.
I wrestle with my own demons, hoping I can cast them out before they attach to my children.
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There are some people who write and you just know they have a direct line to heaven. Ann, you are one of those blessed few who really hear the Lord.
Thank you for sharing your blessing with us. You will never really know how many you have touched by obeying His calling. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I wonder if anyone else recognizes the top photo of the hand on the weathered wooden board?
It is a beehive.
Karen @ Just Call Me Grace says
The way I have worked on forgiving my parents is to remember where they came from, how they were parented, their disappointments and struggles with their parents, believing that they did the best they could, that they loved me. And then, I forgive again, keep on forgiving, until the pain is gone. The memories are there, but they spur me on to be God’s best mother of my adult children.
My husband and I are seeing the results of our parenting and the consequences of our mistakes in our 3 married kids’ lives. Oh, for the grace of more time with them to show them that we loved/love them, did/do our best, fail, and keep trying!
Clara Barton said, when reminded of a grave offense against her years before, “I distinctly remember forgiving [that person].” I’m so thankful that my Jesus never remembers my sins, desires that I live in freedom from guilt. Now…for more grace to model that freedom and forgiveness. Thank you, Ann.
Danelle Townsend says
Oh Ann! Thank you for this! Thank you for these powerful words. My hands tremble as I thank you for being His vessel to me. This is one of the most moving, amazing tributes to what we all must finally do. . . forgive our parents. Love to you for your transparency, your honesty. . . thank you.
Danelle Townsend says
May I also add that more challenging in so many ways is forgiving ourselves for being imperfect parents to our own children. Grace flowing. Amen.
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How on earth do you get to a place where you can actually do that? I feel like I’ve been set up for failure. There is just so much cruelty. Goodness in the face of such cruelty only garners mocking. I’m cynical. There’s no one pouring their lives into ours- no close church friends. I’m empty. Mentally ill. A failing mother. How do you continue to want to live, much less pour (what I don’t have) into someone who is only going to be cruel again? Offer them my other cheek? I know it’s right, but how to make myself do it, feel kind enough, and not wither and turn to dust when more cruelty comes? I don’t know. My body even rebells against me. Kick me while I’m down, you know? So far I can only relat to the beginning third of your wonderful book. I want the rest. Please pray for me that it will come in time- soon. Please just take a minute and pray for me. Thanks.
My darling Holly…take a moment and consider what it could mean for you to write your own history. If you should decide that you would cast off, let go of the hurt that is binding and crippling you from embracing the wholeness that Jesus offers. What if you never grew up in the pain you cannot forget or are reliving? Who would you be my love? What kind of parent would you be today? Who are you apart from all the woundedness – “naked and laid bare before the One with whom we have to do”? Who do you want to be? You are that in His eyes, Shift your gaze to what he sees, who he sees…not a failing mother or whithering into dust. He breathed His own life into you before you emerged into this life from the womb where you were formed untainted by the hand of sin. You have much more to give than what the lies that have wrapped themselves around your mind are telling you. God’s word is the mirror into which you should look to find the true you….
And what kind of mind has Christ? Was He ever sick or mentally ill? You surely cannot believe that…
You are a new creature
You have the mind of Christ
Dare to believe Him in spite of the past, the lies, your body, your emotions and experiences. He’s waiting beloved…
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Dear Holly- I am reposting my reply to correct some errors…
My darling Holly…take a moment and consider what it could mean for you to write your own history. If you should decide that you would cast off, let go of the hurt that is binding and crippling you from embracing the wholeness that Jesus offers. What if you never grew up in the pain you cannot forget or are reliving? Who would you be my love? What kind of parent would you be today? Who are you apart from all the woundedness – “naked and laid bare before the eyes of the One with whom we have to do”? Heb 4:13 What makes up who you really are? Who do you want to be? You are that in His eyes, Shift your gaze to what he sees, who he sees…not a failing mother or a helpless creature whithering into dust. He breathed His own life into you before you emerged into this life from the womb where you were formed untainted by the hand of sin. You have much more to give than what the lies that have wrapped themselves around your mind are telling you. God’s word is the mirror into which you should look to find the true you….
Daniel Farrow says
Oh Ann! This tells my own story with my Dad so well. It is so amazing how, when we as children forgive our parents, the joy of love given and love returned comes rushing at us like an overwhelming river. Thank you again for such delightful reminders. 😀
This is so powerful!!! So beautiful! I feel like God has led me to an understanding of my parents and that has helped me so much in my life! My brother and sister haven’t gotten there yet. They need this revelation too! Thank you for sharing! As I read this, I could see my dad in your dad…. He doesn’t know…. You are an inspiration, encouragement and a light. Thank you, since I’ve discovered you, your blogs and book have encouraged me and have guided me as I navigate being a grown up, young mom, wife, sister, friend. You are a gift!
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What a precious sharing of your heart, Ann…understanding, as we pray for it, breaks the chains around our feet for moving forward. The Lord was gracious to me…my Dad told me at one point that he hated me…I walked away, praying…knowing, that the enemy was at work to destroy…I told the Lord that I forgave my Dad and asked Him to forgive him too. I have never spoken to my Dad about it. Only by the grace of God, was I able to walk…my Dad is now quite frail…but I can honestly say that I love him. He did what he knew. He did what he saw. Forgiveness, Mercy, Love, Grace…all such foreign concepts and yet they all describe our wonderful Heavenly Father. Thanks so much for sharing!
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