Forgiveness is a strange kind of walled garden—exceedingly ugly as we approach it, but breathtakingly beautiful once we’ve stepped inside.
–Pam Thorson, Out from the Shadows
I was barely eighteen years old when I met my future mother-in-law. She was cut from stern German/Norwegian cloth, rough but strong inside and out. I was terrified of her. But after my marriage to her firstborn son, I learned that inside that tough exterior lived a very special soul.
She grew up in the Midwest during the depression. One of her most vivid memories was of standing in a field literally covered from head to toe in the dirt of the dust bowl. She lived a hard life, buried her husband after twenty-two years of marriage, and raised the last of their six children alone.
I learned to love this lady, whose white hair and shy smile belied her feisty nature. She loved to travel, and she often joined us on our family trips. We made many happy memories together.
For forty years, we forged a special bond. But as she grew elderly, her personality grew sharp-edged as her body started to fail her. She became verbally and physically abusive to me when I tried to help
I knew she was fading, but that knowledge wasn’t enough to help me deal with the emotional pain she inflicted on the family. Resentment grew inside me until it cankered into raw bitterness. I wanted to forgive her, but I didn’t know how to get past the pain.
One night, God gave me the answer. It was a simple dream. I was sitting on a bench in a very beautiful park. A woman approached me. Because dreams always confer omniscience, I somehow knew this young woman was my mother-in-law. She kneeled down beside me, took my hands in hers, and looked at me tenderly.
“Please forgive me for what I am now,” she said.
That was all. I awakened knowing what I must do.
It was difficult, and I often dealt with renewed frustration and anger as her condition deteriorated and she lashed out at us. But I clung onto the memory of that dream, when God reminded me of all she once was and how much she had loved me.
And I knew that I had to offer the forgiveness to her that God so graciously gives me when I am hard and unholy and unyielding. Jesus Christ lived His entire life on earth with the express purpose of paying our debt and freeing us from judgment,
Do any of us deserve forgiveness? No. Do we need it? Desperately. Should we pass it on to others? Without a doubt.
I thank God for His gift of grace. I ask Him to help me to live with the same attitude that Christ had when He hung between heaven and earth for my sins and cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
In her new book, Out from the Shadows, Pam’s story about the struggles of a son who has to learn forgiveness was based on her experiences with her mother-in-law. “The Flower of Forgiveness” and thirty other devotions lift back the veil on the struggles and joys of caring for others to reveal God’s great love for us. Pick up a copy ($8.96 paperback; $2.99 kindle) today at http://www.amazon.com/Out-Shadows-Pamela-Thorson