I went to spend some time with my grandparent’s on the night of July 12,1997, so I wasn’t home to hear the rage or violent words exchanged between my parents, but that was the night my family and life as I had known it ceased to exist. In a way I was relieved, because I didn’t have to hide the hurt and agony as a result of my dad’s cocaine addiction. I didn’t have to be woken up in the middle of the night by his boots stomping on the wood floor, causing my heart to drop to my chest. No, no more fear after that night.
I was angry that I hadn’t been there for my mom that night, though. I thought maybe I could have protected her somehow. I wanted desperately to see her smile again, but all I saw after that night was a shell of the vibrant, happy person my mom once was. I hated my dad for what he did to her. My mind couldn’t fully grasp the extent of his addiction, so I blamed him. I didn’t want to look at him, and I certainly didn’t want to talk to him. He had almost killed my mom, the most precious person in my life at that time.
Years went by before I was able to really release that hurt inside of me. Sure, I was finally able to celebrate Christmas and birthdays with my dad and grandparents without seething in rage. I hadn’t really forgiven him, though. I had done just enough so that I wouldn’t hurt. I think I had become numb to the pain, to be honest. When I saw him, I would say, “Hey,” and update him on my life, but our relationship never progressed much further than that.
I watched the process that my mom had to go through to forgive my dad. It didn’t come overnight either. One afternoon we were riding down the road and my mom said, “You know you are going to have to forgive your daddy for what he did.” Immediately, I was mad. Why should I forgive him? Continuing on, my mom pointed out, “There is good in your daddy.” I replied, “Well, I know you always tell me that, but I just don’t see it!” I was just being an honest twelve-year-old child. I didn’t see it. All I had ever known was fighting, cussing, and someone who battled addiction.
My mom told me that I needed to forgive him so that God could work in my own life. Talk about a sobering moment! I decided that it was important that I forgive him. Without hesitating, Mama said, “He’s at home so just go ahead and do it now.” My heart started pounding and my palms got sweaty. We pulled in, and there he was. Mama got out of the car and said, “Madison’s got something she wants to tell you.” Looking kind of bewildered, he waited for me to get out of the car.
Looking into his eyes, I softly said, “Daddy, I forgive you for what you did to Mama.”
“What?” he replied, not sure he had heard me correctly.
So, I repeated it once more, this time tears flowing down my cheeks. “Daddy, I forgive you for what you did to Mama.”
“Oh, that was over a long time ago,” he said, embracing me in an awkward hug. My words just hung in the air, as I straightened up. Even though he didn’t have much of a reaction, I felt better. At twelve years old, I didn’t quite understand the power of forgiveness, but I did it by faith and because it was important to my mom. I knew a magic wand wouldn’t come down from Heaven and fix my relationship with my daddy, but this was the first step in the right direction.
Apostle David talks about ways we deceive ourselves and that unforgiveness is one of the traps the enemy uses against us. As a young adult, I still have to deal with feelings of rejection as a result of my past, but each day I make the choice to forgive others because I’m continually reminded of the grace God has shown me throughout my life. Who am I to deny that to others? And who are you?
~by Madison Sanders