It took a long time to think of my dad as human. His presence loomed in my head as a larger-than-life monster who was guilty of sexually abusing girls when I was a teenager. The things he did drove me to the brink of suicidal thoughts throughout my life.
When I received news of his impending death, I went to see him as he lingered in a coma. Standing in my dad’s hospital room, I took his hand in mine. It struck me that it didn’t dwarf mine like it had when I was small, but seemed almost the same size. In that simple act, God began to show me things about my dad, things that started the process of real forgiveness.
We lump others into two groups, good and bad, without any allowances for moments of tragic choices, poor circumstances, and evil intentions. Actions and choices are what we do, not who we are. That nuance that has changed how I process offenses big or small.
When we reduce people to labels, we feel entitled to treat them according to the category we put them in. I’m not implying that someone who commits a crime doesn’t need to be punished. That is a consequence of a choice that must be paid. I’m also not implying that we have to be in relationship with those who hurt us. But we must humanize our each other with the same love that Jesus gave equally and without partiality, Jesus died for all, not just for those we define as good.
When we strip away the barriers that labels create, we place others on the same level as us. We are all people loved by God. It also allows for change.
When I honor the command to love my brother as myself and chose to see my dad as a broken soul in need of redemption, then I can begin to see him as a human being worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. It is then that my healing can take place. I had to stop making my dad the sum of his actions. When I chose to see him as God sees him, it forced me to consider his value as a human infinitely loved. Only through the redemptive power of Jesus could we be forgiven. We are both sinners in need of forgiving grace.
And if I could extend mercy and forgiveness, and let God’s love live in me, you can, too.
This is the third and final blog from Jennifer Osborn.