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Jun 03, 2015

 

The Strength to Forgive

“Kasey, I asked your mom for a divorce today.”

Her father’s words brushed up against Kasey’s heart like a routine gust of wind. They were hardly a surprise after more than a decade of watching her parents' marriage deteriorate. Growing up in a tense household characterized by their resentment toward each other, Kasey longed for her parents’ bitterness to be overcome by love and kindness.

She longed for the kind of family her friends had – the kind that they were excited to go home to. But after years of hoping, Kasey finally accepted her dysfunctional family life as “normal.” She abandoned the longing to see her parents’ marriage healed in an effort to protect herself from potential hurt. She built walls around her heart and shut down emotionally.

Kasey stood strong in the face of the life-changing news of divorce that her father delivered. The gust didn’t have the power to knock her true emotions loose. It simply came and went like any other breeze, and Kasey felt nothing.

A couple of weeks later, Kasey received a phone call. Sitting in class, she saw her younger sister’s name appear on the caller ID and she instinctively knew something wasn’t right. Her sister delivered the news that her walls couldn’t withstand. For seven years, her father had been having an affair.

“Despite my parents’ relationship, my dad and I were really close. He was my hero. He always provided for our family and was a source of guidance for me,” Kasey explains. “Now, what little family we had was broken. I felt completely betrayed.”

With her walls tumbling down, the feelings of betrayal and disappointment flew freely as Kasey found out more details about the affair. Her safe, loving relationship with her father was gone, and in its place was the sting of abandonment. Unable to cope with her father’s actions, Kasey severed all relational ties with him. “If it was just a divorce, I could accept it,” Kasey told him. But this – this was something she could not accept.

Kasey spent most of her college years distanced from God. She trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior during her senior year of high school, but her view of God was idealistic. When circumstances were good, God was good. But when college brought struggle, she saw a God who seemed indifferent to her problems and lacked the power to change her heart.

Before her senior year of college, Kasey started attending The Austin Stone Community Church at the encouragement of her boyfriend, Patrick. Her relationship with God began to grow for the first time in years. But then she learned the full details of her father’s affair. The timing seemed unfair during that season and the news felt like a major setback to her newly restored faith. Reflecting back, Kasey now sees how it was actually God’s grace.

“There was no way I would have been prepared spiritually to handle all the details before. Back then, I didn’t have a strong foundation,” Kasey remembers. “As soon as I came back to God, he gave me a reason to really rely on him for strength that I truly did not have.”

While Kasey felt like she was relying on God for strength to walk through her family’s brokenness, she struggled with his command to forgive. Kasey knew this command applied to her, but she didn’t think complete forgiveness would be possible for her to extend to her father.

“Jesus, you can forgive my dad, but I can’t. That’s not within my power. I’m not like you,” Kasey prayed.

In the months that followed, Kasey wrestled with obedience. She felt hatred toward her father and didn’t want to let him off the hook. But, God continued to remind Kasey of the Gospel. As she learned more about the forgiveness and unconditional love she received through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, it transformed her relationship with God and softened her heart toward her father.

Kasey continued to grow in her knowledge of Jesus’ character and was in awe of his act of unconditional love. She began to understand that all of her sins were truly forgiven and God saw her as spotless and blameless. Knowing that truth brought a new peace and joy to her relationship with God ... and Kasey began to believe she could forgive her father solely because Jesus forgave her first. One of the verses Kasey clung to as a picture of forgiveness was Isaiah 43:25 which says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

She knew forgiving her dad must be approached in the same way – without reservation and unconditional. After a long period of wrestling with God’s command to forgive, Kasey genuinely wanted to give her dad the same gift that Jesus gave to her.

“Knowing how loving, kind, patient and forgiving Jesus is gives me strength to forgive,” Kasey says. “It gives me hope that I can become a little more like Jesus through forgiving my dad.”

A year after learning of the affair, Kasey wrote her dad a letter. The message was simple, but the act of writing it felt like nothing short of a miracle.

“Forgiveness truly felt impossible,” Kasey recalls, smiling. “But by the power of God, it became possible.” 

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