Christmas is a difficult time of the year my husband and I. Usually for my husband, Christmas meant his Dad was going to get drunk, be abusive to them, and possibly even wind up in jail.
Christmas for me is a reminder that no matter what you got under the tree on Christmas morning, life was still going to be difficult after all the presents were opened. My adopted father especially seemed to take great joy in getting me the things I wanted. On Christmas he actually seemed a little bit happy. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand fully, but I think buying things in some ways for him made up for the wrong he’d done.
This morning as I sit here before everyone rises I’m reminded of Christmas’s past with my family. I was probably eight or nine and looked out the window of our three story house in the nice neighborhood we lived in. I strained my eyes to see if maybe there was a red nose in the sky. It was the last year I think I believed Santa was real. I didn’t find the red light in the sky, but I climbed into my bed anxiously awaiting the next morning. When it finally came I rushed down the stairs to find the Barbie mansion, Barbie convertible and Barbies galore. Playing with my new gifts that morning I still remember how happy it made me.
A few days ago we visited my father in-law at the hospital. He’d just gotten out of ICU and was so happy to see us. Sitting and watching him with the kids, I found myself feeling sad for him that this moment would end. He’d missed so many moments like this with his own kids. For whatever reason, he’d chosen to spend those years drowning himself in liquor. But as he visited with our kids I could tell it meant so much to him.
When it was time nearing the time for us to leave we sent the kids out in the hall so we could tell him about my mother in-laws condition. She will die of cancer in the upcoming months if God doesn’t perform a miracle. She’s been through chemo and nothing thus far has been able to slow the growth of the tumors in her body. My husband’s dad and mom married and divorced at least four times when he was younger. The final divorce was when my husband was in his late teens, but I don’t think his Dad ever gave up on her one day deciding to take him back again. Though he’d gotten drunk and abused her off and on for most of their marriage, he says he never stopped loving her.
When we told him the news about her, he began to cry saying he wished he’d been a better husband. My heart broke for the regret he had lived with for so long. Yes, he’d messed it up so much, but I can’t imagine anything much worse than living in the reality that it was too late to restore the broken relationships of those closest to him. My husband and his three brothers have such a strained relationship with him. It’s extremely difficult for my husband to even be around his Dad. I’ve told my husband lately I thank God that our kids won’t have to deal with PTSD when they are around us when they are grown. We thank God for his mercy that He broke the chains and we didn’t abuse our own children.
Even with all the pain I’ve watched my husband suffer as a result of his Dad’s abuse, we both hugged his Dad and told him we forgave him and God forgave him. In those moments I felt the grace of God at work reminding my husband’s father that it didn’t matter what he’d done Christ had died for it all.
Telling him these words greatly comforted my heart as well. I thought of all I’d done and the forgiveness my husband had given me. It felt good to be giving it to someone else.
Before leaving my heart was burdened to turn and go back to my husband’s Dad. I looked him straight in the eye and declared to him the same words God had been reminding me of, “Remember these three words,” I declared gently touching his arm. “‘It is finished.'”
He looked at me for a moment and I think he understood. I left the hospital thanking God that His mercy and grace never stopped pursuing us with the truth. God wanted my Father in-law to know that no matter what He loved and had forgiven him. Being able to speak those words to him was a reminder to me that it wasn’t too late for me either.
Over the past few days I’ve sent letters to my former pastor and his daughter. His daughter is understandably angry. She and I were friends and I’d kept the relationship with her Dad from her for years. I acknowledged my deception to his daughter and told her I knew that nothing I could say or do would take away the pain the relationship with her father had caused. I told my former pastor I was angry that he’d abused me and not kept the boundaries he should have, however I also admitted that I’d been selfish, too and asked for his forgiveness as well. I told him how grateful I was for Christ’s words, “It is finished.” I asked also that he not respond to my letter. I said our family needed healing, closure and a new start. I told him I prayed the same for his family.
This Christmas morning I think of Jesus entering this broken world as a little baby to live for thirty something years and walk in our sinful human shoes, understanding our temptations, sorrow and pain, yet without sinning once. He could have chosen so many other ways to save the world. He could have chosen to let us die and start all over with a new race of people that would love Him in the way He was worthy to be loved. But He didn’t. He chose the way of suffering as a “man of sorrow acquainted with our griefs.”
And the Bible says:
“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”
This Christmas I take great comfort in knowing that because of Christ’s death on the cross I can forgive others and myself.
“It is finished.”