July 20, 2013

God at Work through Life Groups::Using Forgiveness to Heal Hearts

It was an icebreaker at the Rogerson’s Riverside Life Group: “If you had to live one day of your life over again, what day would it be and why?” The man knew right away it was October 9, 2003. Around 11:00 that morning his wife called to let him know his father had just passed away. Later that day he discovered he’d actually regrettably missed a phone call from his dad around 1:00 am. That missed phone call has left him with a mystery he’s carried his whole life...a buried ache that was now painfully resurfacing.

I’ve always wanted to know what my father was calling for. To say goodbye...to tell me he loved me? I have always wondered if my father accepted me as his son...was proud of me,” he laments. Was that phone call his last chance to learn how his dad had really felt about him? The old regret continued to haunt him. To make matters worse, he felt his sister had always treated him differently, as if he wasn’t really part of the family. They had different mothers. A few days before his father died, his dad had asked him to forgive his sister. While he’d promised he would, he never did.

Five years later, he found his life was crumbling down around him. 
I had made some horrible choices and it had taken a real toll on me. I was on my knees in my driveway looking up and asking God to forgive me, to save me. I had no idea what God had in store for me.” 
One of the first paths God placed in front of him, though, was forgiveness. He realized that just as God had forgiven him, he needed to forgive others. And God started showing him the people he needed to forgive. He admits, “It had been a long time since I’d thought about my sister, but it all came back like it was yesterday. God softened my heart, and even though I wasn’t able to contact her, I chose in my own heart to forgive her.

It wasn’t until 4 years later, when he sat in his life group and was faced with that question, that he began to pray God would answer the longing doubt about his father’s love. That’s when God began to unravel the mystery with a string of very unusual circumstances. Due to his step-father’s health, his mother and step-father moved in next door. To help them out financially, he put all their bills in his name. It had been 10 years since a landline phone had been in his name, but his parents needed one, so he thought nothing of it. A week later he awoke feeling very poorly. Unusual for him, he decided to call in and stay home. Later that day, while visiting his mom, she had a phone call. He was shocked to learn that it was his long lost sister looking for him! It had been 10 years since they’d spoken! “I got on the phone with her and she began to cry, asked me to forgive her, and said that she was so sorry for the way she’d always treated me. It was amazing!” he recalls.

Over the next few months they began to reconnect. She opened up quite a bit with him and finally asked if there was anything he wanted to know. He confides, “The questions about my father came to mind, but there was a part of me that was afraid to ask. What if I didn’t want to hear the truth?” He decided to risk it and asked his sister if she knew if their father was proud of him and accepted him as his son. She broke down in tears, explaining that there had been a lot of conflict between them mostly due to the fact that she had regularly talked badly about him. As he recalls, “she said [Dad] would always stand up for me and tell her that I was his son. I can’t even explain the feeling of peace that came over me.” 

The mystery was solved and his gratitude overwhelmed him. He got off the phone feeling free! God had answered his prayers in a way that only God could. He knows it was only because of the work God had been doing in his heart that he was able to forgive and reconcile with his sister, opening a door he’d never imagined would be there. It was at his life group a few weeks later that he revealed his story through tears. What a blessing it was for them to share his joy and relief and to know they’d played some tiny role in his powerful story. How beautiful to witness a man set free!

God is still at work in this man’s life, doing amazing things. His sister and her husband have not only moved to Ft. Myers to be closer to him and rebuild their relationship, they are actually now in his life group! Praise God for setting up a divine appointment with his sister and for bringing his heart to a place of forgiveness so that his own heart could be healed!

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