The Foreword to Heal and Forgive
This story is painful to read. How can a parent abuse or allow the other parent to abuse children in the myriad of ways described here? Perhaps this "why?" has no answer. An answer would be helpful because part of what we humans long for in the midst of pain and chaos is to make some sense of it all. Answering "why?" there is such suffering in the world at least gives us a handle on it. Yet these answers are hard to come by. Suffering is a part of life. So is joy. But this is little solace to a child whose world is constructed by abuse.
Richards tells her story and unravels the process of healing that can lead to forgiveness. Along the way she breaks the silence of her family and is determined to tell the truth about her childhood. In spite of the denial by other family members, she is heard, believed and acknowledged by others in her life. She goes through the anger and grief of coming to terms with her childhood. She resists the temptation to "forgive and forget" because she knows it would only heal the wound lightly, saying "peace, peace," when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14 ). She puts her energy into protecting and caring for herself and in raising her children in a healthy, nurturing environment. All of this contributes to her healing; all of this is part of experiencing justice. All of this is what finally frees her to forgive and get on with her life.
She chose the path of healing and it took her to forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an obligation on the part of someone who has been harmed. It is not a solo act but rather takes place in community where we can find some sense of justice. It is not saying magic words and hoping that healing will come from that. It is hard work for the individual. It is God's grace carrying us the whole way. It is possible but never easy. This story is a testament to the possibility of healing and forgiveness. No cheap grace here. No pretense of keeping family secrets and denial. Just hard work and a great reward.
Rev. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute, Seattle
Table of Contents
1. Father, Where Are You?
2. Continued Reign of Terror
3. Whirlpool of Injustice and Betrayal
4. New Beginnings
5. Struggling to Forgive
6. Mother, I Am Angry
7. Mother, I Don't Forgive You
8. My Father's Eyes
9. Setting the Foundation
11. Forgiveness Is a Process
12. And Then There Is Forgiveness