The bible says that God is able to “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). I never could have dreamed about what God would do with me if I would just let Him.
When I was about 13 years old my parents split up. I clearly remember the night I leaned over to hug my dad goodnight. After an extra long and tight hug I looked at him curiously and said “Gee dad, I’m only going to bed, I’ll see you tomorrow”. Well, I didn’t see him tomorrow, because the next day he moved out. And so began a divorce that rivaled “The War of the Roses”. I became my mothers confidante, support system, counselor and care taker. When she wasn’t confiding in me the details of the divorce, she was telling me how my father didn’t love me, how he divorced all of us and how some day she was going to get in the car start driving and never come back. I watched her have a nervous breakdown on our kitchen floor, and found the suicide note when she tried to kill herself. I grew up feeling very responsible for making sure she was ok, making peace, taking care of everyone. In the meantime my relationship with my father, which had previously been the closest one I had, was ripped out from under me. I couldn’t trust him anymore, I thought he didn’t love me...that he left me too. There were times when I just couldn’t bear to see him because it just hurt too much. After a long period of silence between us we reconciled and I went to college. A few months later it was relayed to me, by my mother, that he wanted nothing to do with me anymore after a misunderstanding about money. Broken hearted again, I didn’t contact him or try to work things out, and I figured he was just looking for a way to be rid of me for good.
And then 23 years went by.
In the meantime I spent two years in counseling to straighten out what I realized was my very skewed way of dealing with men, graduated with an undergrad and masters degree, moved back to Northern Va, got married, and got a job. All the while I felt God really calling me back to him. I had become a Christian in high school but never had a lot of support and help to grow in my faith. My college faith experience was sort of feast or famine, and I was never strong enough to give up all the crap that was blocking the way between God and I.
After having my son, I had been praying for God to send me to a church I could belong too. One morning I wound up at NLCC, the first church where I ever had fun, cried and felt God speaking to me - all in the first visit. My experience attending there was life changing and I started to really hear God saying to me that it was time for my next step in faith. It was time to forgive my father. I balked, pouted, yelled at the sky, questioned, trembled and after one year finally obeyed. I wrote my dad a letter and forgave him for everything that had happened. I asked nothing in return, and received no response from him. But the blessing for my obedience, the gift I received from God, was the feeling that the 100 pound cinderblock I had been dragging around for 18 years had just been cut from my ankle, and I was free.
Time passed, we were blessed with a daughter, moved to a new home and my husband started attending NLCC, huge answers to prayer. We were going to church as a family and our lives, way of thinking, beliefs were all evolving toward a more Godly and biblical worldview. This did not mesh with the very liberal beliefs of my mother and two sisters.
So began three years of increasingly ugly incidents with my family; an unending feeling of being persecuted for our beliefs, ganged up on by family, accused, abused and hated on. Two and half years into this, I went to Unstuck. I knew that this was going to be a big weekend for me, because I was stuck like crazy. Stuck in anger and bitterness. Stuck in a situation I didn’t want to be in. Stuck in believing that I was a victim. Stuck in unforgiveness. That was the big one, and God had plans for me.
The beauty of the Unstuck weekend is not only figuring out where you are stuck, but it is also in making the plan that starts you moving forward to the life that God has planned for you. I knew God was telling me that I couldn’t plan anything until I let go of lots of baggage and forgave each person. I realized I had to forgive them not only for what they already did, but for what they were going to do. So I made a list, a LONG list of every attack, every unkind act, every thing I was dragging around. I brought it to the campfire that night, told the other ladies what I was going to do, and I burned it in front of everyone. I burned up everything that was preventing me from moving forward to the blessings God had waiting for me. One of the ladies turned to me right after it and said, “Wow, the first thing that came my mind when you did that was Jesus saying, ‘it is done’”. I hung onto those words every time those thoughts of bitterness started creeping back in. IT IS DONE! I would remind myself.
Well, I wish I could say things got better with my mom and sisters, and that we are all living in perfect harmony now, but I cant. The relationship continued to fall apart, and after much prayer, counseling and Godly advice, my husband and I decided we had no other choice than to remove our family from that situation. Although so contrary to my feeling that I am supposed to “make peace” with everyone, this act required complete trust in God. I knew that if I stepped back it would allow Him to do the work He needed to do in the rest of my family.
The bible refers to God’s peace as “peace that surpasses all understanding”. That beautiful peace is what God gave me after this difficult decision was carried out. Blessing upon blessing has been showered upon me over the past nine months. The most beautiful one is that I have a new relationship with my Dad after not seeing him for 23 years. I know that could not have happened unless God had orchestrated my forgiveness of my dad years ago. So I continue to pray everyday to be scrubbed clean of any anger, malice, bitterness or unforgiveness that I have for my mother and sisters. Because I know that God will use my clean heart, in His time, for His plan. And I never want to find myself stuck in my old ways, when God is preparing His plans for me.