Several years ago, my wife and I went to church on a Father’s Day. The sermon that day was about Forgiveness. The pastor talked about the story of the Prodigal Son. On that day I did not yet know how close to his own heart that story was, but it began to cause me to think about my own life.
If you read here often, you probably already imagine how I felt about my father. This sermon gave me occasion to measure what amount of ill feelings I had toward my father, and just how many of my own shortcomings I placed the blame for at his feet.
The idea of forgiveness is to unburden one’s own self from the emotions caused by a perceived transgression against one’s self. I pondered this for weeks. What if the forgiven does not ask for forgiveness? Is this not then a selfish act, designed to support your own emotion that you have been treated wrongly? Are you not then simply serving yourself? What can be gained by that, I wondered.
Again, this went on for weeks. I also wondered if I had the audacity to grant forgiveness, especially to someone who I doubted ever thought to, and certainly never did ask for it. What could be gained? And was my motivation really just to place the blame of my own poor performance as a father and a husband on someone else, therefore unburdening myself? During this time, I received word that my father was ill, and struggling for life.
At last I made my decision, and I shared with my wife my plans. I would go to my father and tell him I forgave him. Even though I was unsure if he knew about or cared for the acts he committed against me or the pain he inflicted upon me. I hoped to at least lighten my own burdens, and perhaps his as well ( you see, I am still unsure about the selfishness/selflessness of forgiveness).
As I made my plan for the journey over the next couple of days, I received word that my father had died.