The Power of Forgiveness
About the Guest
History has lessons to teach both the young and the old. Barbara Rainey, author of "Growing Together in Forgiveness," shares some compelling stories about those who have walked the road to forgiveness. Barbara also reflects on a time in her parenting when she sought forgiveness from her children.
Barbara Rainey, author of “Growing Together in Forgiveness,” shares some compelling stories about those who have walked the road to forgiveness.
The Power of Forgiveness
Bob: If there was a recipe for healthy families, one of the main ingredients would be a lot of forgiveness. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: It’s in family, with siblings and with parents, where so often we’re hurt the worst, where we suffer sometimes the most profoundly. That is where forgiveness is needed the most because those relationships are the most important relationships in our lives. They are formative relationships. We’re bonded to those people, but we are hurt by those people. We need to learn to forgive them.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Do your children know how to forgive one another? Do you know how to forgive? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. You know, there are some things that a guest has shared on FamilyLife Today that just kind of stuck with you—just one of those things you carried away. Back in the first year or two that we were on the air, we were interviewing a guest talking about how children develop character, how they develop a sense of right and wrong. This guest said, “If you want to teach your kids right and wrong, morality, you teach it to them through history, through story, and through example.
I was thinking about that as I thought about this series of books that your wife Barbara has been working on—and Barbara, by the way, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: Always nice to have you here.
Dennis: It is great to have you—you look a whole lot better than Bob. (Laughter) Bunch—much better, Sweetie. (Laughter)
Bob: I have to—I agree with that, as a matter of fact—but, Barbara, you’ve been working on this series of books for families—devotional books—designed to use story and history to drive home character qualities. You can’t use example. Parents have got to come up with that one on their own.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —story and history—these are powerful ways to transmit values; aren’t they?
Barbara: They are. I think our children today need role models. It makes me sad to think that some of the greatest role models of the Christian faith are being forgotten. There are people today who don’t know who Corrie ten Boom is. I just think, “Oh, my gosh! That’s tragic!”—and people who don’t know some of the great believers of the faith, that we can model our lives after. We want our kids to know these people because they are great role models. I think some stories from history are wonderful for our kids because they are inspirational and will help them understand the truth we want to teach, as parents.
Bob: A few years ago, you took seven stories about the issue of gratitude and put them in a devotional guide for parents called Growing Together in Gratitude. Then, you said, “Okay, we’re going to do another one.” That was Growing Together in Courage and, then, Growing Together in Truth. You’ve just finished a brand-new devotional called Growing Together in Forgiveness.
I was thinking about courage and gratitude—those, honestly, are a little lighter weight—
Bob: —then, this one, forgiveness. We’re diving—
Bob: —into some deep stuff here.
Barbara: Exactly. Yes, forgiveness is a much more complex and a much more difficult concept—not only to teach your children but to practice as human beings because, in order to forgive, you have to set aside your own desires to get even, or to exact revenge, or to make the other person pay, or whatever you want to call it. We all feel that. Internally, when someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back, or we want to get them back somehow. So, forgiveness is a much more difficult, much more complicated topic to teach than gratitude.
Dennis: Yes, I want to read something you wrote. In the front of your book, you said, “Because we love poorly, we must forgive frequently.” That’s a great statement, “Because we love poorly, we must forgive frequently.” It’s not a one and done action—although, I wish it was. “Repetition is necessary. Humility is needed for we must bow before God, Himself. It is He who instructs us to forgive. He is the one to Whom we must answer. He alone is the Judge who knows all hearts.” Then, you go on to say this, you say, “Ultimately, the power of forgiveness lies in its ability to replay God’s forgiveness over and over in our lives.”
When I read that statement that you wrote, Barbara, I thought, “You know, maybe as we forgive one another, we have fresh reminders that Almighty God, who is the ultimate Judge of all creation, has ultimately forgiven us in Jesus Christ once and for all.” He really has sent His Son to die on the Cross for our sins and to pay the price for all of our wrong doings, and He has forgiven us so that we know how to forgive another imperfect person.
That’s what you are saying. When we love each other and we fail, we have a chance to replay the Gospel of what Jesus Christ did for us.
Barbara: And get a fresh start in the relationship.
Bob: When we lack motivation, to go back to the Cross and to go, “Okay, here’s what I did. Here’s what God did in forgiving me,”—it’s pretty hard to stay mad at your brother for swiping your candy bar if you’re thinking about how you’ve sinned against God and how God sent His Son as a sacrifice for you.
You tell a story in your book, Growing Together in Forgiveness, that comes from New Zealand. I had to wonder—you and Dennis had the chance to go to New Zealand—did this come—
Barbara: It did.
Bob: This story came while—
Bob: —you were over there?
Dennis: Yes, we had a chance to go celebrate 21 years of FamilyLife’s ministry in New Zealand with Andy and Nikki Bray. I wish our listeners could meet Andy and Nikki.
Dennis: He’s been on a dialysis machine—in fact, he’s the oldest surviving person with no kidneys in all of New Zealand. Yet, he’s building families by the thousands in New Zealand—making a difference.
While we were there, we had the chance to get a tour of some of the area. That’s where we heard this story.
Barbara: Yes. We heard the story of the natives of New Zealand. They are called the Maori. There were some missionaries who showed up on the shores of New Zealand, and began to build a settlement, and began to get to know the natives, the Maori people, and learn their language, and translate the Scripture into their language. One of the people that they met was a little12-year-old girl, whose name was Tarore. She came to the mission school. She was very bright. She caught on very quickly. She was one of their best students. As she grew and got to know them, she received Christ.
As a gift, this missionary couple gave her the Gospel of Mark, which was translated into her language, into the Maori language. She treasured that. She carried it in a little purse around her neck—a little straw purse that she had made. She would go back to her tribe in the evenings after school was over. Because she was the only person in her tribe who could read, she would sit around the fire at night, and she would read from the Gospel of Mark to everyone in the tribe.
Well, one day, the missionaries realized that they needed to move their camp, move their settlement, because there was a lot of infighting with some of these Maori tribes. They made arrangements to pack up and move, and move to a little bit safer location. They agreed, with the tribal leaders, that some of these children, who were their best students, would go with them so they could continue learning. Tarore was one of them.
As they travelled to their new location, they were attacked by a neighboring tribe. Everyone escaped, except Tarore. She was killed by this warring tribe. The story is what makes this so remarkable. When I heard it, I thought, “I have to tell that in my forgiveness book because Tarore’s father had been listening to her read about Jesus. He had been listening about how Jesus came to bring peace, how Jesus came to bring forgiveness, and that Jesus taught that revenge was not the way to make things better.
That was all he had ever known because that was why they were constantly fighting with each other. Tarore’s father remembered the words of Jesus. He said, ‘I want to be the one to stop this.’ From that story, he actually did grant forgiveness to this other warrior, and the truth of the Gospel spread throughout these tribes.”
Today, in New Zealand that story—it’s in book form—is taught to all the children in all of New Zealand. It’s a bedrock of that nation’s history—the story of this little girl who gave her life to Christ and brought the story of forgiveness to her people.
Dennis: There’s a little nuance to that—that Barbara writes about in her book, but she just left out. The warrior, who killed the little girl, stole the Gospel of Mark—
Barbara: Oh, that’s right.
Dennis: —from around—
Barbara: —from her—
Dennis: —from her neck. Took it home and began to read it. She says, “The warrior who stole the little book was curious about its contents. He found someone who taught him what it said. As he listened, he, too, believed the words of Jesus and felt great regret that he had killed Tarore. He decided to ask for forgiveness. Walking a great distance and taking a great risk that he might be killed in revenge, this warrior found both Tarore’s father and forgiveness.”
So, you look at this and you think of the passage in Romans 8, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.” Here’s a little girl who came to faith in Christ, who was seemingly innocently murdered; but she ended up being the messenger of the Gospel to two divisions of a warring tribe, to bring reconciliation with God but also reconciliation between the tribes.
Bob: I think there is a powerful lesson there, that at some point, when we’re going back and forth with one another, somebody’s got to say, “You know what? I’ll bear the brunt in order to bring peace. I will stop the cycle instead of returning evil for evil”—as it says in 1 Peter—you give a blessing instead. It’s a powerful principle that comes from that story.
Also, noticed that you tell the story of somebody who was a guest on FamilyLife Today, a former Olympic athlete. Were you listening to our program? Is that where this story came from?
Barbara: Probably! (Laughter) Yes, this story is about another young woman. Her name is Kim Anthony; and Kim grew up in the city of Richmond, Virginia. She became enamored, as an eight-year-old girl, with the sport of gymnastics because it was on TV—the Olympics in the summer of when she was eight years old.
She saw these girls doing cartwheels, and flips, and tumbling all over the mats, and doing all this. She thought, “I can do that. I want to do that. I want to become like that.” She taught herself to do cartwheels, and flips, and aerials, and all of these complicated gymnastic maneuvers, on her own, in her backyard, and on her concrete sidewalk. Nobody would ever think of doing that kind of difficult maneuver on concrete. I mean, you could kill yourself; but she became quite good.
She was recognized, joined a local gym, and was immediately put on their traveling competitive team. She quickly rose through the ranks of gymnastics and began winning competitions, and winning awards and medals, and did all these things. Eventually, she was offered a scholarship to UCLA; and she was an All-American there.
The interesting thing about Kim’s story—and the reason that her story made my book—is because Kim had a rough background. Kim had a bad relationship with her daddy. I wanted to tell her story because, as Kim grew up and when she was in college, she learned about Jesus Christ and gave her life to Christ. Kim took that relationship with Christ and applied it to her relationship with her dad.
She ended up meeting with him and forgiving him face-to-face for all the times that he wasn’t there for her, all the times that he didn’t give her the love that she wanted, because a part of that loss in her life of relationship with her daddy was what pushed her to excellence in gymnastics. I thought as I read her story—I thought, “You know, this is a story that many of us can relate to because there aren’t too many people who had perfect daddies”; right? Probably, nobody has had a perfect daddy.
Bob: That’s right. That’s right.
Barbara: Therefore, all of us grew up with some deficiency. All of us grew up with some loss because our parents weren’t perfect, and they made mistakes. There are a lot of daddies who made a lot of mistakes, and they need to be forgiven. Kim’s story tells us how to forgive a mom or a dad who has fallen short and made some mistakes that you have suffered from.
Dennis: I really agree with what Barbara is talking about here. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring probably a couple dozen guys along the way. A number of years ago, I had a young man—as I began to mentor him and talk about where he’d come from, it was clear that he had some deep wounds that had been put there by his father They had not been reconciled. He had never really forgiven his father and moved toward his father with forgiveness. I gave them the assignment to begin working on that.
You know, forgiveness is one of those things that says, “Easy,” but does, “Hard,” if you really do it. If you truly forgive, you have to give up the right to bring harm and hurt back to them in retaliation. I think the best kind of forgiveness is not that which flips a switch and just kind of flippantly, “Oh, yes. I forgive you”—like our five-year-old and eight-year-old did when they were growing up, “Oh, yes, I forgive you,” or “Forgive me.”
Bob: At our house, it sounded more like [exaggerated voice] “I forgive you,” “I’m sorry.”
Dennis: Oh, yes. Yes, like that.
Bob: That’s what it was like at our house.
Dennis: As an adult, you start looking at forgiveness, especially with a parent, and you go, “God has commanded me to forgive my dad, my mom—just as God in Christ forgave me.” That’s a process. I mean, let’s get honest here. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially if the hurt runs really deep. For some of our listeners, it does.
That’s really what I like about what Barbara’s book is all about. It’s talking about real people who have endured serious hardship and hurt. You’re really pressing people back into those relationships, to reconcile with other people.
Barbara: Yes, because I think that’s what God has called us to do. As parents, we need to train our children to know how to do that because they have to practice it at home, growing up, because they are going to have to continue to forgive as adults. If they don’t learn the basic principles at home, they’re not going to know how to forgive in their own marriages and in their own families, in their work relationships, and with neighbors. I want families to have some mental images, some pictures of others who have done it, so they know how to do it themselves.
Dennis: I’ve said many times here on FamilyLife Today, as I grow older, I want to grow old, with a smile on my face. I do not think you can fill your heart with sulfuric acid of resentment, anger, bitterness, and put it in a container and let it reside there without it affecting your face. Your face is going to reflect the corruption of your heart. All of us know older people—
Bob: —get a little grumpy?
Bob: Just a little, tad grumpy.
Barbara: They don’t have to be really old either, honestly. (Laughter)
Dennis: Now, there’s a lot about life that kind of takes the wind out of the sails. You just got to keep coming back to the truth, and be anchored in that, and refuse to be a person who gives into the dark side of our hearts.
Bob: I think there’s a little method to your book writing here. These stories are for parents to read to their children, but you’ve got some parents in mind when you include these stories.
Barbara: Yes, I do. Yes, I do. I just remember, as a parent, when I would read things to my kids, read stories, or read books to my children, I learned as much or more than they did. I know that there are parents out there who don’t really have this nailed. I mean, I didn’t have it nailed. We had to decide, “How are we going to teach our children to forgive? What are the steps? What are they going to be?” I know, as a parent, we needed all the help we could get. So—
Dennis: There’s one story before we’re done here I want you to just share with our audience. It was, in my opinion, one of the pivotal points in our family, where you humbled yourself, and you asked family members to forgive you.
Barbara: Yes, I did. It was a Thanksgiving, and I had been through kind of a season in my life. I was probably in my early 40s, maybe mid-40s. I had realized that—not that I was unaware that I had made a lot of mistakes with my kids—but it kind of culminated in, for whatever reason—I don’t even know what God was doing—I just realized that, even though I had asked my kids to forgive me for all these little, individual things that I had done—times when I have lost my temper, times when I had done whatever. I don’t even remember.
Dennis: Been impatient.
Barbara: Yes, been impatient, that kind of thing. I just sensed that I needed to apologize to them much more generally and just let them know that I really wanted to be a good mom; but I was a sinner, I was broken, and I had made way more many more mistakes than I wanted to. I wanted them to forgive me for being human, for being broken, and for being an imperfect mother because I really wanted to give them more.
Bob: So, what did that moment look like? Where were you, and how did you do it?
Barbara: We sat in our living room, and the kids were kind of wondering, “What in the world is going on?” You know, I’m sure they were quite confused because I had called this meeting. I had written out this one-page thing because I knew that I probably wouldn’t be really good on my feet.
I had something I wanted to read, and I cried my way through most of it because I just was so sad that I had failed my kids. It wasn’t that I was a failure because I knew better than that, but I had failed my kids. I had made more mistakes than I ever believed that I would make as a mother because I love my kids. I wanted to do what was right; but the sum total of my depravity had come out more than I had intended, wanted, imagined that it would.
I just wanted them to hear that I was just profoundly sorry that they were having to grow up with an imperfect mother who was not doing—it’s like the verse in Romans, where Paul said, “The things that I want to do, I don’t do; and the things that I don’t want to do, I do.” I didn’t want to get impatient with my kids. I didn’t want to be angry with them. I didn’t want to be frustrated with them because I love them, but I did all those things. I just—I really, I really regretted it. So, I asked them to forgive me for all of it.
Bob: You said that was a pivotal point in your family.
Dennis: Yes, I think so because it wasn’t that the kids hadn’t heard me ask for forgiveness or Barbara, as she said; but it was a powerful, emotional moment, especially for Barbara—and for that matter, me. Even though I wasn’t the one asking for forgiveness, I experienced it with her. I think it spoke volumes to our children that she loved them. She did want to be a mom who loved them well, but that she had failed. It modeled, to your point, Bob, about not only history, but stories, but also modeling. It modeled the very message she’s talking about in this new book on forgiveness.
Bob: I know a part of your hope with this new book is that as moms and dads read these stories to their children, God would spark in hearts a need to repent, to ask for forgiveness, to seek it, to grant it to others—that the work of forgiveness would happen as people are motivated by the examples that we read about in Growing Together in Forgiveness. If you would like to get a copy of Barbara’s new devotional, Growing Together in Forgiveness, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s more information available there about the book. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com.
In addition to Barbara’s newest devotional, we also have copies of Growing Together in Truth; in Courage; in Gratitude. Each of these contains seven stories designed to be read aloud to the family to help cultivate some of these character qualities in your family, in your home. So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Growing Together series of devotionals by Barbara Rainey; or call us toll-free at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. We’ll let you know how you get one or all of these devotionals sent out to you.
Now, we have been encouraged, this month, by those listeners who’ve gotten in touch with us and said, “You know what? What FamilyLife Today is doing is important. It’s helpful. We think it’s good for us. We think it’s good for our community. We want to help make that happen by becoming Legacy Partners.” We’ve heard from a number of listeners. In fact, there is a little thermometer on our website that shows how many we’ve heard from because our goal has been to hear from 1,500 new Legacy Partners this month.
We’re still a ways away from that goal, but we’re hoping that this last week of the month some of you who have been thinking about calling will pick up the phone and say, “I want to join. I want to become a Legacy Partner—make a monthly contribution to FamilyLife Today.” When you do that, this week, we’re going to send you a welcome kit that welcomes you to the growing family of Legacy Partners. It includes a CD with a special message that Dennis and I did for our Legacy Partners, a couple of travel mugs; and then, each month, you’ll receive additional resources, designed to help strengthen your marriage and your family. It’s our way of staying connected with you as you continue to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the Legacy Partner link you find there; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I want to know more about becoming a Legacy Partner.” Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance to those of you who have been Legacy Partners throughout the years with us. We appreciate that. To our new Legacy Partners, “Welcome aboard. Glad to have you.”
We hope all of you will be back with us again tomorrow.
I want to say, “Thanks,” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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