I was not even two years old when my mom used to play this little game with me. She would say different words and I would repeat them. At certain intervals she’d insert the word “förlåt”, which means “forgive me” or “I’m sorry”, but I would refuse to say it! As I’ve been told by my parents, I had a very hard time asking for forgiveness, and I suppose even forgiving. Many times it’s been a struggle for me.
In my early thirties I had the opportunity to practice what I call “the art of forgiveness.” We had come home from the mission field with a big problem on our hands. Bengt was suffering from a deep depression due to misunderstanding from our main supporting church. In negotiations about our future ministry, they could not understand our vision, and they did not give us the moral support we needed to heal and go on with our lives. We had hoped the pastor would counsel Bengt and give him the encouragement he needed to get on his feet again. That did not happen, and needles to say, we were very disappointed.
My struggle was so deep that I got to the point were I didn’t want to have anything to do with God’s children, but in no way could I leave the Lord. With bleeding heart and tear-filled eyes I would tell the Lord that I could never stop loving him, because he had done me no harm. It was his children that had hurt me. My biggest pain was that I thought my life as a missionary was over. But in due time God would open doors we could never have dreamed of.
Then, one day came an invitation to be the main speaker at a children’s event at that church. It was a “trial by fire” in the school of forgiveness. I’m so glad God gave me the grace to accept the invitation, and what greater subject to speak about than forgiveness? I started my presentation singing a song about forgiveness. Waves of soothing balm washed over me as I sang,
The most beautiful word that I know
Is a word that so seldom is said
It’s waiting for young and for old
That little word “Förlåt” [Forgive me]
We need to understand and forgive
And be a little more caring
Soon it might be too late
Let’s be understanding and forgiving
The children I sang for had not hurt me, neither had their parents. It was the board members that had misunderstood us, and I don’t remember if they even were present at the event. That wasn’t important! What mattered is that I publicly offered forgiveness. It hurt deeply to sing each word, but there was wonderful healing power in doing it. I wish I could say that it put the matter to rest for us. Bengt was a very loving and forgiving person, living by the rule his mother taught him, to try to be at peace with everyone, but he struggled for many years to reach the forgiving point. It was such a relief when he finally could forgive and forget this painful period in our lives.
In years to come we learned many lessons in forgiveness. It was always hardest for me to ask for it or to offer it. Anytime I could not bring myself to forgive, the Lord was my help. He’s heard many a prayer from me, “Father, I cannot do this. I put the matter in your hands and ask you to forgive through me.” And he has never failed me.
If Mom were here today and could play her little word game with me, she’d have a reason to be proud. Loud and clear I would say the word “förlåt”, because life has taught me that nothing brings such peace and joy to the heart as forgiving and forgetting.