The phone call

This evening I received a voice message from my brother who I haven’t heard from in over three years. I didn’t answer the call because I didn’t recognize the number and I thought it was a marketing company.

His voice was shaky. He mentioned, “Mom,” and that’s when I called him. I didn’t even bother listening to the rest of his message.

He told me that my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia and that she had asked for him to see her. Apparently my stepfather died about four or five days ago. I’m not sure if her illness has anything to do with her grief.

My emotions are mixed.

My mother married my stepfather when I was 9 years old. Soon after, my stepfather started to molest us. I remember only bits and pieces. One of the strongest memories I had was when my mother said I couldn’t lock the door to my bedroom at night anymore because it “wasn’t safe.” I had a deep feeling of dread, fear, and panic.

For the longest time, I waited for my stepfather to die (he was about 20 years older than my mother). He never did, but then I moved on with my life. I got married and had a family of my own.

I had a literal distant relationship with my mother and stepfather—they lived in California and I lived in Florida. After a few years, they moved to the Philippines. Throughout my nearly 30 years of marriage I only saw my mother three times.

After I had become a Christian, I wanted my mother and even my stepfather to know Christ. I didn’t want revenge and I wasn’t waiting for him to die. In fact, I had hoped that I would hear him say that he had asked God for forgiveness and that he was a believer and a follower of Christ.

With Christmas cards and other mail, we would send them gospel tracts. About a year ago we sent them the “Jesus movie” and my mother said that my stepfather constantly watched it. I am hoping that it changed him.

My mother had always been resistant in hearing about Jesus. She told me several years ago on her last visit to Florida, that she didn’t need Jesus. I’m not sure if she still felt that way. As much as I could, I tried to tell her about Jesus’ love and how my life has changed because of Him.

I am not sure if my mother will recover from her illness. My father said that he will check on her today after the funeral of my stepmother’s mother. I am hoping that I will have one more opportunity to talk to her about God.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

What is forgiveness?

When I first became a Christian I was perplexed by the Scripture verses in Matthew 18:21-22, ““Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”” (NLT).

I didn’t know for sure what was meant by “forgive someone”—does that mean we pretend that nothing ever happened? What if the person justified the actions and was not really sorry for what happened? Should I still forgive?

When I was 5-years-old, my older half-brother, age 15, started to molest me. He did this until I was about 7-years-old. My mother married my stepfather and he started to molest me when I was 9-years-old—this lasted until I was 13-years-old.

My half-brother and my stepfather never asked to be forgiven; in fact, my half-brother justified what he did—“brothers and sisters do these things.” How could I forgive that?

As I continued to read my Bible, I discovered another Scripture verse: “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive” (Luke 17:3-4).

The words, “believer,” “repentance,” and “asks forgiveness” jumped out at me– these passages really didn’t apply to my situation.

Then I read Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Does this mean that if I don’t forgive these two that God will not forgive me? But how could I forgive someone who didn’t even ask for forgiveness?

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Even though there was no remorse from these two, I had to forgive them. To me, this meant I had to release the anger and hurt that I felt. If I held on to the anger then it would slowly kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to fully worship God because I would have this ugly thing between Him and me.

It wasn’t easy to forgive. It took many years of anguished prayers, but one day I realized that I no longer had anger or hurt. I knew then that God had healed me, and in my heart I had forgiven them. Maybe one day they will turn their lives over to God and He will forgive them too. God is good!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti