When Forgiveness Isn't Easy I have previously shared how I chose to forgive Wayne out of a desire to protect my heart from the burden that unforgiveness brings. While deciding whether or not to forgive him, I sensed that withholding forgiveness was somehow very dangerous for me, so I chose to forgive. As easy as the words ‘I chose to forgive’ may sound, believe me, it was not at all easy. It was incredibly hard. Having said that though, I can now look back and see that as hard as it was, choosing to forgive my husband was not the hardest choice I had to make in the area of forgiveness. Oddly enough, it took more time and effort to forgive Wayne’s dad than it did to forgive Wayne himself. Forgiving his dad for the choices he had made during Wayne’s childhood, and the way they had affected both Wayne and our family was a very difficult process. I’m not really sure when a seed of bitterness was first planted in my heart toward Wayne’s dad. Perhaps it was when I first learned the hidden story of Wayne’s childhood years. I was angry over the way he had been emotionally neglected by his dad. My heart was broken over the fact that his emotional neglect had pushed Wayne out the front door to look for approval and love in the wrong places at such a young age. I have also wondered if the seed of bitterness was planted because I was just plain hurt, and needing a scape-goat to be mad at I chose Wayne’s dad because our lack of relationship made him feel like the safest choice. Maybe it was some combination of both of these reasons. But regardless of the cause, by the time we were about one year out from discovery I had one bonfire of an angry flame burning in my heart towards Wayne’s dad. My feelings of anger and bitterness may have gone on forever had it not been for the fact that they eventually begun to disrupt my life. You see, his dad’s house is about thirty feet from ours. Every day when I saw his grey truck go by the window I would feel a surge of anger swell up in my stomach. As time went by the anger would last longer and would be harder to quiet. As if to add fuel to my fire, he would randomly say or do things that would hurt Wayne all over again. Each time this occurred I became more and more convinced of his selfishness, and my anger deepened. From time to time I would realize that my anger toward him had taken me to an unhealthy place. My children would ask me why I was so mad, and I would realize that I had become captive to my anger. I would try to swallow it down, but that would only quiet it for a few hours or days until he did something else to trigger another bout of anger. For about six months I went through a cycle of anger - anger repression - trigger - anger - anger repression. It was miserable. I knew I should forgive him, but I didn’t want to. Somehow, forgiving him felt like letting him off the hook. While he was happily going about his life, I was becoming more and more convinced that he should pay for the way he had chosen to parent his boys. I remembered that in the Bible God tells us, “vengeance is mine.” In my heart I wanted Him to take vengeance. I wanted to see justice done for the way he had hurt Wayne, and by extension, me. Finally, in my misery, I came to realize that harboring anger toward Wayne’s dad was just as dangerous to my heart as any other anger, so I chose to forgive. Unfortunately, choosing to forgive my father-in-law was not as smooth a process as choosing to forgive my husband. Willing myself to forgive Wayne’s dad after I had developed a long standing habit of inwardly repeating his crimes every time I saw him was like trying to weed my garden by simply ripping the tops off of a bunch of Bermuda grass. I was trying to forgive him, but in my heart there was still a deep root of bitterness that was ready to push up another blast of anger when I least expected it. At first I thought my feelings were stuck because I was not able to tell him that I had forgiven him. Since Wayne’s dad was never told about the infidelities or about the ways his son had searched for love and approval when he had failed to give it to him as a child, it would have been counterproductive for me to walk over to his house and tell him that he was forgiven. So I forgave him in my heart about a half a dozen times a day, every single day, for quite a while. My will was choosing forgiveness, but my heart needed the healing of a fresh perspective before it could become soft enough to give up the root of bitterness that was so firmly tangled up in it. At just the right time, the Protector of my heart sent me some help in the form of a kind mentor. She explained the process of forgiveness and justice to me in a way I had never understood before. She told me that when God promises vengeance, He isn’t promising to hurt our offender to the same degree of pain that they had inflicted on us. Inflicting pain as a punishment is not in His nature. His ultimate vengeance is when He takes back one of His children from the Thief. His revenge is against the enemy, not against people. Something in my spirit leapt at her words as I recognized the truth found in them. I can’t really explain my heart change toward his dad that day, other than to say that understanding how he and I both fight the same enemy somehow softened me toward him. Now when I see him, rather than being triggered into anger and bitterness, I am reminded to pray a prayer of blessing over him. I ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, and that He will take His ultimate revenge by snatching Wayne’s dad back from the thief. It thrilled me to see that I wasn’t letting him off the hook; I was simply putting him on God’s. Wounded heart, I totally get how my difficult journey to find forgiveness may seem a bit irrelevant since it has to do with my father-in-law rather than with my spouse. But I believe the difficulties I ran into along the way could just as easily have been the same ones I would have dealt with in my marriage had I not chosen to forgive Wayne so soon. Repressing my anger only made it harder to be rid of later, and my desire to see him pay by hurting as much as I hurt only made me more miserable. Eventually, I chose to pay the cost of forgiving him. It was a long, hard journey that in a lot of ways felt like pushing a boulder up a steep hill, but on the other side of that hill I found great joy and peace, and my heart was fully restored. Forgiving Wayne’s dad wasn’t easy, but it was a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything.