One of the biggest challenges I have undertaken was forgiving my ex-husband. I think most people who have walked this single parent road can appreciate that.
The pain is real. The pain can take many different forms. The pain of rejection and abandonment comes in forms of loneliness and despair. The pain of verbal/physical/mental abuse lasts in memories and nightmares. The pain of harsh judgment comes in the form of insecurity and fear. The pain of failure comes in forms of disappointment and embarrassment. The pain of broken dreams shatters the picture of the future.
I think first it’s important to realize how much we have been forgiven. Jesus died so that no sin could separate us from Him. He forgives us as often as we let Him. This was a good starting place for me. It’s always a good idea to point the finger at self first. There is always a lot of work that needs to be done with the self. If you aren’t sure of your faults, get a confession guide and ask Jesus to enlighten your spirit. He will, I’ll warn you this might bring some pain. We are all sinners, so don’t let this pull you into a place of despair. It is good to recognize our brokenness and offer it to Jesus. He loves our weakness. He will even use it as our strength.
I had an enlightening experience in confession once regarding this:
I went to confession at a different church than I normally attend. The church was gorgeous and had the old style feel to it, so I was already in awe and ready to feel Jesus. One of the sins I confessed was the anger in my heart toward my ex-husband. I can’t remember why I was angry now. That priest told me to look at situations like this as “saint making.” It’s in these moments when the pain is real, and the world justifies our anger, that we get to choose how to go forward. We can make the choice to forgive and love and pray. We can make the choice to walk out of that pain. We can make the choice to walk with Jesus. This in itself is the road to becoming a saint. And this was a major turning point for me. This was balm to my soul. This didn’t change a single circumstance; it only changed my heart.
Hear me when I say I didn’t do this on my own. Jesus did this for me. But I was willing. I was willing to confess and I was willing to receive grace and eventually I had completely forgiven my ex-husband. I pray for him regularly and I know that is the work of the holy spirit.
Now to further clarify forgiving does not necessarily mean forgetting. Sometimes things have to change in order to protect yourself and/or your children. So I’m not talking about a Mickey Mouse version of sweeping everything under the rug. I’m talking about digging into your heart and pulling the anger out. That anger is toxic to your soul. It is toxic to everything it gets close to. Don’t ever trick yourself into believing holding onto anger has a good purpose. It doesn’t. Sure anger is natural and something we will feel. It is not a place we should stay.
Jesus wants us to walk in freedom. So I challenge you to free yourself from anger. I challenge you to free yourself from anything that is standing in the way of your sainthood. I challenge you to hold tight to the sacraments and trust Jesus to change you into something that looks like Him. I challenge you to be a saint.