Dose of Truth
I quickly knew when I began reading, “Forgiving My Father,” by M. William Lensch in the February 2018 issue of Reader’s Digest that it was a powerful moving story. The author related how his father rarely talked and was emotionally distant. While he tried to teach his son to be respectful, he had a bad temper and Lensch felt very isolated from him.
His father loved to work and frequently after working all day, would head to the barn to work more. So, it was a shock when as an elementary student Lensch came home one day to find his father sick and in bed. He was soon diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
The disease quickly took a horrible toll on his father. In his final year, he moved only from a hospital bed to a chair. One day when the author was in the ninth grade, he and his father were alone in their home when his father asked him to sit down. Soon the man who rarely had anything to say began to talk and talk. He shared about experiences growing up, and about memories of the Pacific during World War II. He discussed the joy of falling in love and the pain of having his heart broken. After an hour, Lensch realized this talk was his father’s way of asking for his forgiveness.
The son was deeply touched and forgave the father, however, not long afterward his dad died. Following the funeral, Lensch returned to school and had to face the school bully who routinely picked on him. The bully said, “I heard your dad died. Is that true?” He was surprised when the bully not only did not punch him but said, “I’m sorry.”
Lensch concluded, “What do you do when your ‘enemies’ reveal that they are also human? I think you either forgive and move forward or hold on to resentment and live in the past. I’m certainly not glad that my father got sick, but… I realize that if he hadn’t, I might never have come to love him.”
Lensch did not realize it at the time, but he was doing what Jesus taught his disciples to do in the Sermon on the Mount when he said we are to pray, “…forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12, NLT) Forgiveness is never easy, but we can do it when we realize those we need to forgive are as broken as we are. Offering forgiveness does not minimize others’ failures, but means we recognize their humanity in the same way we hope they acknowledge ours. Only as we focus on forgiving like God, can we understand that God’s forgiveness is offered to us in the same way we offer our forgiveness to others.