“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”~ Luke 6:37
“because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:13
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”~ Gal 6:2
I have been thinking a lot on forgiveness and the cost of discipleship that often is not counted in our culture. Our western culture says, “you can be forgiven if you have been properly punished.” Much of what we seek is justice or judgement instead of mercy and grace. I believe the call of God is to be transformed into the image of His Son. The Son gave us mercy and grace on the cross, yet while we were sinners Christ died for us… Before you and I ever asked for His forgiveness- He died for us. In other words, he gave us forgiveness before we ever asked for it… Pause and wait for it… We love mercy and grace for ourselves but can be pretty stingy with giving it to someone who does not deserve it… But, did we ever deserve it? NO, I think not. It was my sin that put Jesus on the cross, right?
1995 was a pretty hard year for me- addicted to crystal meth, and every other foul thing that comes with that territory. I was lost. In the midst of my destruction, tragedy was never far from me. My marriage was a failed mess, in fact she joined the army to get away from me. My family was pretty much done with me and Dad was losing a battle that I understood all to well. Having no hope is certain death. It was on September 14th (my mom’s birthday) that my Dad thought he would be doing everyone a favor by killing himself.
Dad went into the bedroom, took a revolver and a pillow and did the deed. My little 12 year old brother, my 3 1/2 year old daughter and My Mom heard the muffled noise and had to break into the bedroom to find my Dad. Paramedics were called, I was called and the whirlwind began. I find it hard to describe the emotions I felt because I was so disconnected, numb and dead inside. Dead is what I really was in those days. The following day held false hopes, disillusionment, guilt, denial, disbelief and dispair. Quite the demonic symphony.
The week prior to this mess, my Dad told me he was about ready to kill himself. I told him that could not be the answer to the problem. I told no one else of the conversation believing that Dad was just spouting off- yet in my gut I knew something was wrong. Hence my overwhelming feeling of guilt. My addiction was a full time job in those days, and had little time for anything else between work and pretending to be a father to my daughter while simultaneously destroying the things I said I loved.
Dad’s suicide slowed things down for me a little. The following day, my Mom’s pastor was at the hospital waiting with us as we stood by Dad’s bedside. They gave us the news that Dad was not going to make it, too much brain damage… We stood by Dad as they unplugged the machines and we watched his heart beat slowly stop… Even now- after all this time, I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I still miss him and love him.
I was shattered… I informed everyone quietly that I was going to the house to clean up the mess left from Dad’s shooting. The Pastor would not let me go alone; irritated- I relented. It was in this moment that God began working on me. As I cleaned up the blood and bed sheets, I saw my dad’s wallet and the addict inside me lept for it. As I went through his wallet I found a one dollar bill and it struck me so hard I crumpled almost to me knees and began to sob. Pastor Paul caught me in a hug and said in a voice of weeping and tenderness that I had not experienced before, “oh Rick, I love you…” I was ruined from that moment on. Jehova Sneaky was doing His work…
Forgiveness was what I needed, the love of God through Paul met me and the process began. I had a very hard time forgiving my Dad, and forgiving my wife for leaving me for the Army. Eventually, I lost it all even my relationship with my daughter, (we were separated for almost 13 years before I would see her again at age 16.) Forgiveness was not easy for me at all!
Paul was my hero that day in every way. He knew I was a drug addict of the worst kind, a liar, a thief, a drug dealer- it was no secret. Paul insisted on spending time with me that day when even my family wanted to run away. I was not judged or condemned. I was shown mercy that day and it triumphed over judgement. Finally, Paul carried my burden that day and because of his love in action I became a born again Christian. Paul introduced me to a real Savior.
I was reading my bible and read the words that Jesus said hanging on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It was a moment I will never forget. For some reason it read to me, “my dad, my dad, why have you left me?” I was ruined again… I knew that Jesus had felt everything I have ever felt and I was not alone and would never be alone ever again. I was transformed by the truth of the Word. It was no longer just academic it was alive to me.
Forgiveness was a call to die to my selfish nature- holding my Dad accountable for my pain was futile. In trying to protect myself, I created this “bubble” that kept all the pain out, or potential pain makers out. The problem with the “bubble” is that it kept out the love and the potential love makers I needed and wanted as well. When I made the choice to forgive my Dad the “bubble” began to fade, along with all the pain of rejection and betrayal. It was a process for me not an event- but it all started with the choice I made to forgive.
Let me encourage you today with the reality of Jesus and His love for you. He is very near! “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”~ Psalm 34:18 Sometimes, it was all I could say in those days… Jesus help me… Jesus save me from myself… Jesus change my heart… I can say with confidence that Jesus has helped me, is changing me and is saving me from myself!