August 4, 2014 by theresiugoes
I was 16 when my mum died. We had spent the twelve months prior fighting. Teenage girls don’t get on with their mums at the best of times, let alone when there’s a cultural difference. Growing up, my Mum’s values seemed a world apart.
We fought over everything. My subjects at school (she wanted me to do math’s); my friends (she was worried they were a bad influence); the way I dressed (too revealing); the way I talked (disrespectful)… It felt like she was always on my case, and as a teenager I really thought that she was a horrible, selfish, controlling woman.
Our biggest fight, in the last year, was over a boy I loved. I did love him, as much as a teenager can love, but it was a selfish, self-fulfilling kind of love, that grew all the more tantalising as long as it was forbidden. We fought tooth and nail, and I would stop at no end to be with my “love”. I jigged school, I came home late, I stayed up to all hours chatting on MSN and on the phone. I disobeyed her at every opportunity, and I lied to her face.
I’m not saying it was easy – I felt terribly guilty about it – but I was able to convince myself that my love for that boy was too strong, too important, too undeniable.
Once, one of my teachers called home, because she’d seen me at school in the morning but I didn’t make it to class. I was busted.
I remember the hurt on her face when I came home that afternoon. Her sad eyes are imprinted on my mind’s eye.
It was a terrible confrontation. She scolded me with tears streaming down her face. She saw my disobedience and rebellion towards her as a mark of my disobedience and rebellion against God. The next morning, I woke early and heard her praying for me, pleading that God would forgive me and bring me back to Him. I stood outside her bedroom window, eavesdropping on her prayer. I was ashamed and embarrassed and frustrated. I didn’t understand nor could I rationalise what she was saying.
That day, Dad drove me to school. I had broken their trust so I could no longer take the bus. I had behaved like a child so I would be treated like a child – driven to school each way.
While Dad drove me to school, Mum tried to get out of bed and get dressed. Her body couldn’t handle it alone (Dad was usually there to help her), and she fractured her rib.
Mum went to hospital that day. She stayed for six weeks and never returned home.
Just three days before she passed, I found myself alone with Mum in her hospital room. I knew we had arrived at the end, and I knew this was my moment to make right my wrongs. “I’m sorry, Mum. I’m sorry I lied,” but before I could finish, she cut me off. “It’s all forgiven” she said. “Just promise me you will obey your father.” Later that night, as my siblings and I sat around her bed, she uttered more words of forgiveness.
These moments have stayed with me since, the most significant moments of my life. In that generous and thoughtful act, my Mum taught me three important things about forgiveness (but it took me a long time to learn).
– We forgive because Christ forgave (Matthew 6:14-16; Mark 11:25)
My Mum was a Christian. She lived and breathed and oozed her faith. Everything she said and did was because the Bible convicted her of it. Forgiveness is not just a principle of Christianity, it’s an instruction and command spoken by Jesus Himself. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. Through Jesus, God offers forgiveness for humanity’s rebellion and rejection of Him.
I believe that’s why my Mum thought it was so important to forgive – because Christ’s forgiveness had so greatly impacted her.
– We don’t forgive because “it makes me feel better”.
What’s that quote – “forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace”? Mum turned that on its head.
She was on her deathbed – she was on her way to heaven! Free from pain and stress – on her way to guaranteed peace! She wasn’t going to wake up on the other side feeling relieved that she forgave me – she was about to see the face of Jesus! She wasn’t trying to let go of her baggage. She wasn’t trying to release herself from anger. Her offer of forgiveness was not the least for herself and entirely for me. She forgave me because she didn’t want me to carry the heavy load of guilt for the rest of my life.
– Forgiveness compels us to love (Luke 7:36-50)
I hear my Mum’s words of forgiveness, over and over in my head. I see her hand holding mine, those two ugly cannulas piercing her skin. Her offer of forgiveness has tied me to her in a way that my guilt never could.
For years, I was so overcome by my guilt, I punished myself daily, for my failures as a daughter. I think, subconsciously, it allowed me to feel close to Mum – it was, after all, the way our relationship had played out in her final years.
But as soon as I accepted her forgiveness, the guilt fell away. It took more than 10 years to accept it, but eventually my bond to her grew. My love for her deepened. My desire to know her strengthened.
Jesus said “he who is forgiven much loves much.” I’ve seen this in my own life, as my Mum’s offer of forgiveness has compelled me to love her more. But further to this, it has put in me a desire to extend the branch of forgiveness to others.