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Words to Walk By: Forgiveness

Author and SP staff Chris Rattay, shares a story in his recent book Words to Walk By about a neighbor who experienced breakthrough in forgiveness toward his father.

One of my friends grew up in a difficult neighborhood. His father died when he was very young, which kept him and his family stuck in government housing, or the "projects" as they're referred to here. He could tell you many stories of almost dying, or almost being locked away for a long time. He was a young boy without any direction or leadership from his father. The most difficult period for him was when his mother lost custody of him and his siblings for a few years, and he bounced around foster care. He was filled up with anger and hopelessness, wondering if he would make it past the age of twenty-five. 

Well, that same year, at age twenty-five, he gave his life to Jesus and started to plan for his wedding. The wedding planning caused him to research the death of his father. He was always told that his father, who drove a taxi cab, was the victim of a senseless murder. You can imagine the shock when he found out that his dad smuggled drugs and his murder was linked to this lifestyle. A lot of anger filled his heart, as he realized that much of the pain that he experienced as a boy was the result of his father choosing to live an illegal life. I walked with him through this process of discovery, anger, and forgiveness. I was amazed to see Jesus help him forgive his father in such a genuine and deep way. It wasn't easy, and it was messy, but the result was miraculous. 

He is now the head basketball coach at our local high school, a leader in our teen ministry, and the adoptive father of his nephew. His life is all about being a father figure to young men who are going through what he went through. And instead of bitterness towards his father causing him to act out in dysfunctional ways, he is an incredible husband: consistent, thoughtful, and generous with his wife. As I write, he is about five months from holding his first biological child in his arms and becoming the kind of father his father was unable to be for him. How was he able to break the cycle of inconsistency and anger in his family? By forgiveness, the most powerful transforming agent in our world. 

He won't be a perfect father. He will make mistakes. When his kids enter adulthood, they will likely have some of the same difficult choices before them as he had. But when they understand the beaches of sand that their Heavenly Father has forgiven them, and when they understand the bucket of sin their father forgave their grandfather, I hope they will see the little cup of sin from their father, and I hope they will choose to forgive, and live in the forgiveness that now characterizes their family.

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