Choosing to Forgive My Parents
What do you do when those who are supposed to raise you, care for you, and protect you don't do their job? As a Christian, how do you reconcile childhood trauma with a faith that teaches unconditional love, praying for your enemies, and grace for the even the worst of sinners?
In today's guest post, Tracey Casciano welcomes us into her world and doesn't shy away from the hard questions.
Grace is messy,
Until a few years ago, I lived with a big secret. I was ashamed and feared being judged by others, so I kept it to myself. From the outside, my life looked normal and that’s the way I liked it. But living with a secret can weigh on us after a while.
I survived a childhood of physical and emotional abuse from the two people who were supposed to love me the most. After years of living with an alcoholic mother and sexually abusive father, my coping mechanism was to avoid the memories and deny anything was wrong. I had feelings of anger, shame, and guilt from my past but didn’t know what to do.
How do you explain to your friends that your parents have never met your kids? What do you tell your son when he asks why he’s never met his grandparents?
After all the years of wearing a mask and doing my best to hide from the truth, I felt alone. I had been afraid to tell anyone because I didn’t want to be judged. I had been estranged from my parents for years and it weighed on my heart. I felt like I was at the point of no return.
So there I was, in the middle of raising four sons, being a wife, a daughter in-law and friend to many when everything started to come forward. As an only child, I began to worry about what I would do if something happened to my parents. But what could I do about our relationship after all these years?
One day my heart was full of anger, guilt and shame, and I heard God say, “forgive". I didn't want to forgive my parents. I believed they didn't deserve it. It seemed unfair of God to make such a request. I didn’t understand how or why I should forgive the two people who caused me so much pain. It was unexpected and left me feeling alone, but I knew it was time to face my past.
Reluctantly, I went to a counselor and told her everything. The weight of my past was exhausting and I knew if I was ever going to move on, I had to do something. I finally realized God was saying that forgiving my parents would benefit me, most of all, by sparing me from the consequences of living out of an unforgiving heart. As I struggled with the command I had been given, I learned that forgiving my parents didn't excuse their behavior, but it allowed me to move past the hurt.
I had a lot of questions, and God's Word helped me sort through them all. Even in the midst of this difficult season, I found love in place of my emptiness, and new courage to move on and grow from this experience.
I wrote my parents a letter, explaining that I was forgiving them, not because they deserved it, but because I needed to stop being a victim of my past.
God helped me forgive just in time. Right in the middle of working through my pain and learning to forgive, my father died. In dealing with my emotions and memories from the past, I also found a new kind of love for my mother. I was given the gift of God’s grace and now I am learning to extend it to my mother, with love.
Through this journey, I have learned to cherish God's grace more than ever and I am doing my best to share it with others, even when it stings. If you're in the midst of a difficult time, or find yourself in a tough spot down the road, I hope you'll remember my story. Life isn't always easy and forgiveness is a process, but having a strong support system makes a big difference and I have learned that God really is "an ever-present help in time of need".
I'm no longer the little girl with painful secrets. Today, I'm a grown woman, living in freedom, creating a new legacy for my own children, thankful for God's grace.
Tracey Casciano is happily married to her college sweetheart and is a busy mom to their four sons. She has a background in special education and taught at a local high school for eight years before she began writing. Her book, "Out of the Darkroom, Into the Light: A Story of Faith and Forgiveness After Child Abuse" is available on her website and Amazon. Join Tracey on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
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