A little back story on how I came to write this post. Our annual men's retreat was last week and the Saturday night speaker was baseball great Darryl Strawberry. I'm a baseball fan and Strawberry's Mets had won the World Series 28 years ago just after my dad died. So while I expected other speakers to be good, I was attending because of Saturday night. Then Saturday morning with Bryan Loritts happened.
The thing is, in his second session, he spoke on a topic he hadn't planned to use. So in a way, neither of us planned to have that encounter ... but God certainly did. His topic was forgiveness and, by the end, I was ready to do something I'd been putting off for well over two decades. It comes as a very personal letter, but I've decided to write it here as part of the Crooked Path.
I'm still working through my perspective on forgiveness, but Bryan made me think in a way I couldn't just push it aside any longer. He helped me see that forgiveness doesn't have to mean restoration. It also doesn't mean we forget evil done against us or stop prosecution or other legal action. It doesn't mean we grant absolution in every case. But it does mean that we don't let "it" control us any longer. Some of you might think what I'm about to write is silly - something I don't really need to do. But I'm doing it for my own reasons because leaving it unforgiven needs to stop. Twenty-some years is long enough. So, just a few weeks after I marked the 28th year without my dad, I'm putting this out there on my blog. It's just three simple words ... but simple doesn't mean weak and it's time I wrote this letter.
I forgive you for leaving us too early. I was just twenty-three and only married for six months. The next year was pretty tough on any number of fronts. No Sunday dinner with you and Mom and Pete. No visits or laughing or joking. No chance for my young bride to cement her relationship with you and for me to see you through her eyes in a deeper way. Nope - all of that gone with a single phone call on a Saturday afternoon.
I forgive you for not taking good enough care of yourself to see seven of your grandchildren ... eight really since Stephen was just a baby when you left us. They are some pretty terrific kids, especially the two girls (or should I say young women) who live in my house. I realize you may not have lived this long, but the loss is still very real even if you'd had only a few years with my girls.
I forgive you for not being around when I finally finished my undergrad degree and pressed on to grad school. I know you'd have been proud of the man I've become, but it rings a little hollow when I can't hear your response. Just once, I'd have loved for you to sit in on a Sunday School class I taught. Sure we'd have had our differences, but I know we'd have found common ground in the same God and Savior. I know you would have challenged my thinking ... yet I can only project that because neither of us had the chance
I forgive you, Dad, not just for dying too soon but for all the years you put ministry first and for the lessons I learned that had to be unlearned. I spent quite a bit of time with a very skilled counselor who told me to do this decades ago ... but it took a long time and an unexpected encounter at a retreat to finally break that dam.
I love you Dad and I still miss you. But looking for your affirmation and praise can't happen anymore. It's time for me to consummate the forgiveness and let it go. You left a big imprint on my life for the twenty-three years I had you and in the twenty-eight since I said good bye. Your legacy will continue still ... but my perspective will change because I've finally written those three simple words:
I forgive you.