Forgiveness. It seems like a 1,000-pound bench press, a crushing load, impossibly heavy to lift. But forgiveness isn’t a one-time heft above our heads to declare our spiritual duty done. It’s more like a marathon. (Or, for those like me, who shudder at the thought of running a 5K, it’s more like a really, really long-distance stroll—preferably with a coffee in hand.)
But whether you resonate with 5K, or a latte-sipping walk, forgiveness is a journey we are compelled to take far too often in the world of special needs parenting.
25 years ago, when I faced the relational loss of my parents, I had to learn for the first time what a forgiveness marathon looks like. I remember the long process it took to grieve and to give it to God. When something would trigger the angst anew, anger would rise to the surface and I’d have to give both my anger and my parents back to God. Again. And again. And again.
Each time I wanted to right the wrong that was out of my control, I had to surrender my hurt and my anger to God and remember that my parents were His responsibility. Only He could work in their lives. Only He could understand them, and love them and turn their hearts toward Him. So I began to pray for God’s mercy toward them and for their healing. Over the course of many years, God turned my hurt into compassion, and forgiveness has turned pain into peace even though our relationship remains broken.
The other morning, as I progressed through the Lord’s Prayer, taking each section and making it my own, I came to the familiar phrase, “Forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who sin against me,” and I paused. Images of people from my son’s school instantly came to mind. God had put His physician’s hand over my heart, and I had winced. A familiar heartache had returned.
We have had a difficult beginning to the school year. So many needless mistakes have been made with my son’s IEP and his school schedule by people who know better. And it has been difficult to work through.
As special needs parents, we are often at the mercy of teachers, administrators, doctors and other professionals. We want their understanding and need their insights and cooperation as we try to help our children navigate this life.
Often, we are blessed by those who care for our children and help us on our way. But what happens when someone harms our child? Or we wrestle with an institution whose rules and guidelines are outdated and inflexible? What are we to do? How are we to respond?
Whole books are written to answer that question. And people answer it in different ways, depending on their circumstances. But as believers in Christ, whether we roll up our sleeves and attempt to correct the injustice, or decide to change course and look for a better source for help, we are all called to respond with the attitude of Christ. (And one reason I thank God for the invention of the delete button to rewrite my thoughts until my digital rants contain more reason and rationale, than rage.)
And we are also called to forgive.
Jesus calls us from his example on the cross to reject the toxic heart-decay of bitterness, to relinquish our desire for revenge, and to entrust to God’s judgment and His care, those who have caused harm. Those who even sin against us and our children.
Right now, in the middle of a school battle, we are unsure which way we will turn. Will we patiently forge a new path for our son despite the resistance of rules and some rule-keepers who seem so intent on doing the least for the least of these? Or will we bring in an advocate? Or will we walk away to search for another educational alternative?
No matter the choice God will help us to make, one thing remains constant. I need to pray, by name, for those whose actions are causing us so much stress and grief. I need to show grace to them and kindness, even as we advocate for our son. Maybe, as Peter offered with such generosity about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22, it will take only 7 times. But given my track record, it is more likely that it will take my heart 70 times 7 (Jesus way of saying that we need to forgive as many times as it takes) before I can let God transform pain into peace.
Bottom line? I’m going to need a few lattes.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matt 18:21-22
Question: Is there a person you need to forgive so that God can release you from the toxic grip of bitterness? Or do you have a victory story of how God has enabled you to forgive and set you free to pray for those who may have caused harm in your family?
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
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- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015