How Much Can I Forgive?
Editorial note: This post was written by my wife, Kath Thomas, some time past. She first wrote it as a way of processing her own emotions and as a way of aligning them with the truth of the gospel. She has allowed me to share her reflections here in the hope that it may be an encouragement to someone else.
For more information on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, check out NOFASD Australia.
How Much Can I Forgive?
I thought I had dealt with it but once it again it has reared its ugly head; anger, a deep physically-hurting-my-heart anger. The first time we walked the path of hearing the offical diagnosis of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome for our little foster son, my heart broke with sadness. It broke for the struggles and challenges he would face as he walked through life and it broke for the rest of my family that would share the pain of that journey as we walked with him. Anger was very much there too. Anger that his birth mother had made the life choices she had. How could she do this to her unborn child? Over time I put my ‘counsellor hat’ on and thought through the realities of her life and I knew there was probably no one in her life that had ever told her that drinking alcohol whilst pregnant was not safe for her unborn child, she did not know, and I could forgive that. Yes, I still grieved, and that is ok, but I could forgive her, and thought I really had.
A couple of years ago she shared with me that she was pregnant again and we talked about not drinking and looking after herself and her unborn child; I thought she heard me. I felt sure that ‘our talk’ had made a difference. Once again I find myself walking out of the doctor’s office with another Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosis and this time I am not only angry, I am furious. Another little life that will face challenge after challenge and struggle after struggle. How could she do this? I told her; she knew what could happen! I feel a deep rage at the injustice of it all. I am far from being a violent person, but today…
And so I wallowed. I wallowed in my grief and my rage. Until God gently reminded me.
‘Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22
This principle of forgiveness is big. It is a challenge that every believer will face at some point in their journey through life. Whether the sin was made against us or indirectly as we live with the consequences, it is a choice we must make.
But I’ll be honest, on the inside I was kicking and screaming about this verse. There is something in us that sometimes just wants to sit in our anger. We hold onto it, feeling like it’ll give us something to anchor us as we struggle through our days. But in reality it is really dragging us down, deeper and deeper until we are suffocated and joy no longer has a place.
God has this wonderful way of shining a light on the realities of our own sin so that we can no longer point the finger and judge. I fail everyday. Everyday I am not the mother God has called me to be. Sin is sin and in God’s eyes, I am no better or worse than my children’s birth mother. I can point the finger and scream ‘look what you’ve done’, but then just as quickly I see a finger pointing straight back at me reminding me that I am but a sinner saved by grace. It is only through the work of Jesus Christ that I have anything to boast in. My good works are as filthy rags. His grace has set me free, it has set me free to be loving, gracious, and forgiving.
I have no doubt this will be an ongoing journey. As I choose to walk the path of forgiveness, anger will rise again. Perhaps this is part of why Jesus said ‘seventy times seven’. As my kids and our family continue to face struggles, as we daily see the devastating effects of FASD, I will need to make forgiveness a choice. There may be times that righteous anger takes it’s place and my hope is that God will use that to make me a history maker when it comes to FASD, and that somehow righteous anger and forgiveness will sit together in a beautiful way that displays the glory of a loving and forgiving Father.