When I read this story from my friend Kirsten's blog, I asked her immediately if I could share it, word-for-word, here on a Friday. I know no better proof of the mystery of a transformed heart than the act of forgiveness from one wounded person toward their wounder. May God reward you, Kirsten, and your family for many generations because of your act of grace.
Please read Kirsten's words and then leave her a comment here or at her blog, Living A Life of Faith:
Forgiveness is such a hard concept for me. I've gotten better with it over the years especially with prayer but I still have to be very intentional in choosing to forgive.
Twenty one years ago I got into a relationship that would last a short painful time, produce a beautiful child and fundamentally change who I was for a very long time. The anger, hurt, fear and resentment from this relationship would consume most of my adult life. This man was not a part of my son's life growing up, which at the time I was very grateful for. Where he was in his life was not a good place and would have brought even more heartache for my son and I if I had stayed with him. So I took my son, left and never looked back. I fought to protect him. Doing all that I felt was right at the time. He disappeared, moved from the area, I think. Gradually I stopped looking over my shoulder. Then out of nowhere, Support Collection Unit (SCU) would catch up with him and start collecting support again. Checks would come and not for very long but it was enough to bring up a lot of the old fears. Each year that passed the debt to us grew more and more. I held a lot of anger and resentment again this man for not paying support, for not taking care of the son he had. There were lots of times that I could have used that support, instead of going without a lot, instead of borrowing money from family, instead of turning to social services in my son's early days.
A couple years ago the support checks began to come again. They've been consistent. I've been able to count on them, include them in my budget (especially since food budget with a teen can be pretty high). Frankly, I haven't thought much about him or our past since becoming a Christian and processing through a lot of my own past. That was until April 7, 2011.
I got home from an amazing MOPS meeting to have a letter from the courts waiting from me. I didn't understand it all but what I did grasp was the fact that he had signed it in his lawyers office in Binghamton!! This meant he was here, he was living locally again, had been, in fact, for awhile. I'm very grateful that God has placed such an amazing husband in my life because through talking and prayer he was able to help me calm right down. Once I was calm I was able to hear God's voice more clearly and began to get a picture of what He was asking me to do. I wasn't thrilled with it but I was willing to listen. We were in the middle of purchasing a house so I was packing and tending to other things in life. I started to gather info on what I needed to do for when I made the time to obey what God was asking of me. God gave me the final push on April 28th, the same day my husband got a promotion and raise.
You see He was asking me to forgive. To forgive past sins and debts...just as He has forgiven mine and wiped my account clean. That day I received further court papers with a date set in May. These papers included financials and letters from government agencies threatening to freeze his accounts till a certain amount of past support was paid. Anyway, for the first time I had compassion for this man as a human. I didn't see him as the "big bad wolf" of my early adulthood. My husband and I talked about it, prayed about it and I made the decision it was time to move on what God was asking of me.
That day I called SCU and asked them to draw up my own petition to excuse him of the significant amount of back child support owed. I knew that none of it made sense to them. What they didn't understand was at this point in our lives God takes care of us, my husband provides for us and I don't have the desire to see someone else suffer because of his poor choices. God's grace has poured forgiveness into my life for the horrible things I've done. Who was I to withhold grace when God was calling me to extend it??
As the day of court approached I felt an odd sense of peace. I actually tried to conjure up the feelings of anxiety I thought I should be feeling. That morning I had a MOPS steering meeting and as some of my friends were praying over me, one of them pointed out how good God is in scheduling this day on a day where I could have their support beforehand. Their prayers brought a huge sense of relieve as I headed back home to get ready for court. Knowing that I had my son's blessing, my husband's blessing, my friends prayers and God's prompting made facing him and this task all the easier.
Court was not what I was expecting. First I was late, I know the enemy loves to just mess things up to laugh at us. I looked at that paper a bunch of times and every time I saw 3:30. I put it in my calendar as 3:30. At 3:15 as we were approaching Owego, I looked at the paper and it said 3:00. Boy did I panic! Thankfully as I was trying to get ahold of the judge, she called me so I was able to let them know I was coming. Anyway, I walked in, actually rushed in, in a flurry and there he was. It was the oddest feeling of nothing I've ever experienced. I was so worried all those young girl fears would come back. They didn't. With God on one side of me and my husband on the other I was able to face a piece of my past with strength and confidence. I felt the same compassion for him I'd feel for a complete stranger in a tough place. There was no anger anymore. It was the first step to a new sense of freedom.
The final step was about to take place as the courtroom doors shut behind me. I wasn't prepared for the battle I was about to face. SCU told me the judge would probably ask if I was sure I wanted to excuse all back support and then just go forward with what I was asking. That was not the case. She was a very fair and wise judge but wasn't going to let me just walk away from this situation. She presented some really good alternatives but I knew it wasn't what God was asking of me. Every option she put before me caused more anxiety for me. I wanted to accept and just leave but I knew I had to face her and stand by my conviction that I was doing the right thing. She said to me a few times that she didn't understand, that it didn't make sense. My response was that I was aware of that but it's what God had laid on my heart to do. My husband even told her it was about grace and forgiveness but she just didn't understand why I wanted to walk away from what was owed me. It was frustrating and hard for me because I have a hard time standing up to authority figures but I could feel the Holy Spirit encouraging me. The judge finally agreed to stop the support collection process which took the collection of over $30,000 out of the system's hands and placed it in my hands, which in my heart and in obedience to Christ has a zero balance.
I walked out of the court room with the oddest ear to ear grin because I felt such a freedom from the past, a freedom from unforgiveness, a freedom from obeying my Lord. I knew God had had His way, that he touched some lives and it was pretty amazing to be in the middle of that. Randy's quote when we left "Well, that was fun to watch". I'm not sure about fun but it was amazing to see God working.
My prayers are that those who were present in that room had a glimpse of God's glory and that someday, somehow it will benefit my son on a personal level. I don't know what that means but I know what it's like to grow up without your father a part of your life. I ache for my son and the pain that I know is there in his heart. I had a dream last night where I told him (my son's biological father) to get his life straightened out and then he might be able to have a relationship with his son. Will it ever come true? I don't know. I do know that I'm now in a place of peace about the past and that I won't stand in the way. I'll be there for my child but allow him to make his own choices about who's a part of his future.
Thank you Lord for the work you do in our lives, for softening my hard heart and for teaching me about forgiveness and grace by pouring it into my life.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. ~matthew 6:14-15