My mom and dad were decent people and my childhood, compared to some, a walk in the park. Nevertheless there were issues. Nothing so big it couldn’t be talked through, but that was the rub—we didn’t. It just wasn’t part of our family culture to repair conflict. We escalated, boiled over, yelled, stormed, stomped out, and then buried it. Marriage counselors say every escalation alerts us to “a conversation we need to have.” My parents and I, particularly my dad and I, needed to have some conversations.
The lack of resolution and repair gave birth to a seed of bitterness in my heart. I distinctly remember Dad walking through the door after work to greet each of us with a puckered-up, somewhat-wet kiss. I’d wipe it off, disgusted. The resentment had an enduring, inflexible quality, like a piece of furniture so heavy it becomes a permanent fixture. I left for college at 18, coming home only briefly for vacations. Dad and I were like aquatic trees, distant above the surface, but tangled together at the roots under the murky water.
Then I experienced a change of heart. Some of it may have been the time away from home; it’s easier to forgive from a distance. But a large part of my change of heart was spiritual. I came to understand God’s forgiveness toward me, and the sheer relief of that lifted burden made protective anger unnecessary. My own shame and guilt uprooted took with them any guilt and shame I would impose on another. Forgiving Dad happened effortlessly and nearly unconsciously. No more wiped-off kisses. No more distance. Only tender love.
Some say don’t forgive unless the person apologizes. I disagree. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The outflow of my forgiveness for others uses the same door as the inflow of God’s forgiveness for me. The door opens, and grace comes and goes freely. Now, that doesn’t eliminate accountability. Justice and forgiveness can exist side by side. But that’s a discussion for another time. Let’s just soak for a few minutes in the fact that God’s grace can dissolve long-standing heart-tensions.
Jesus told us to forgive if we have anything against anyone. Are there people in your life you haven’t forgiven? Is it because you’ve confused forgiveness with trust and reconciliation? Or have you seen forgiveness as incompatible with accountability? Remove these stumbling blocks and see forgiveness as a simple choice to release resentment toward the other. And then, forgive.
The post No More Wiped-Off Kisses: Forgiving and Loving My Dad first appeared on Sabbath School Net.