Marsha, a young suburban wife and mother, could remember happy family times when she was a preschool child. At that time, her father was not only sober and responsible but warm, affectionate and fun-loving as well. She adored him.
Things began to change when she was 6. She saw her father drunk for the first time on Thanksgiving Day. Marsha didn't know what was happening, but her dad became a monster -- loud, mean, verbally abusive and unable to stand up. She was terrified and ran to her room and locked the door.
"My memory of elementary school years was one of humiliation," said Marsha. "My father often showed up drunk at my school plays and my brother's athletic events. Never a quiet drunk, he usually managed to create a scene. Dread and anxiety were my common childhood emotions."
Several years later, Marsha's dad was able to straighten out his life. He was able to regain his original job and do well in it. His main concern was for his children. He paid for most of their college expenses and sought to re-establish a relationship with them. Her brother saw him regularly, but Marsha would have nothing to do with him. When she married, she asked her stepfather to walk her down the aisle and, despite protests from her mother and brother, Marsha didn't invite her father to the wedding.
Yet, as is always the case, the hatred made her unhappy and impatient with others. On Father's Day 1994, the minister's sermon title was "Forgiveness." He concluded with this statement, "If we hate or are unforgiving of others, we block God's forgiveness of us."
Marsha suddenly saw the true picture of herself as an arrogant, vengeful judge unwilling to acknowledge her father's evidence of love. She picked up the telephone and talked with her father for the first time in 18 years.
"If I hadn't been able to receive his forgiveness, my guilt would be unbearable. You see, my father died one month later with a sudden heart attack."
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.