By: Robin Halvorson
My father was the product of a broken life. His parents’ brokenness begat his brokenness which begat the brokenness in my own family. Born under a cloud of shame and rejection, his entire childhood was a quest for love that was never fulfilled. With an alcoholic father and distant mother, my father believed he would never be worthy of love. He allowed unforgiveness into his heart and began acting out this unquenchable desire for love in his teenage years by rebelling. Upon graduating High School, he decided he would run away by joining the Army and was quickly drawn into the Vietnam War. It was there he was first introduced to drugs.
It wasn’t until he met Jesus in the 80’s that he began to find relief from the pain of his past childhood. It was astounding to him that the Lord could love him and forgive him for all the terrible things he had done at war. He vowed to serve the Lord his whole life and was called into ministry. A few years later, my father met a beautiful, creative brunette that was completely in love with the same Jesus that had stolen his heart. They were married and all was beautiful and hopeful; he had finally found his home.
However, unforgiveness continued to poison his heart. He never fully chose to forgive his family for his broken childhood, and he never fully forgave himself for his past sins. You see, when we keep unforgiveness in our hearts it remains there like a poison that has the ability to do irreparable damage. In fact, Matthew 18:23-35 says that if you choose not to forgive, you “give yourself over to torturers.” This was the case for my father. A few years into his beautiful marriage, he began to draw back into the life he had escaped and began a lifestyle of drugs and promiscuity once again. When my mother became pregnant with me, my father was furious. Having a child was not in the plan. As the abuse worsened, my mother was forced to leave and soon after I was born they were divorced.
Growing up I did not really know my father. I saw him on the occasional birthday, and have only a handful of memories of him. I remember my mom and grandparents talking about arrests and how he lived at a halfway house, but all I knew was that my father was absent from my life. However, in the middle of what could have been devastating abandonment, my mother did an incredible job of allowing Jesus to fill in the gaps in my heart as my heavenly father. I remember she would tell me, “Jesus is your daddy now. He provides everything we need.” So, I grew knowing the Lord as my provider, my identity, and my peace. My mom poured our lives into church and taught me the importance of God’s presence; my identity was shaped around Jesus rather than the pain of my father.
It wasn’t until my teenage years that I began to feel the lack of a father in my life. In my school age years, he had a resurgence, cleaned up his life, became an engineer, and began working for a prestigious company in Chicago, Illinois. My father and I began speaking again as I entered middle school. This was the first time in my life I actually had any type of relationship with him. I hoped all the darkness was behind him, and he could begin being a part of our lives again. I was hopeful to rebuild our family and know my father.
Then, the sins of his past drug abuse caught up to him. He had two brain aneurisms, and one burst. Doctors said it was a miracle he survived! However, he was never fully able to regain his memory and problem-solving abilities. My father began to spiral again, and by my senior year of high school, he was living homeless on the streets of Chicago.
It was at this time he began to attempt to reach out to me once again. However, this time I was not as receptive. He had left me. He chose drugs over me. How dare he try to be a part of my life now! As a broken-hearted teenager just wanting the love of her father and not understanding the depth of his pain, I chose to reject him the same way he had rejected me as a child. As I entered college and became more successful the attempted letters and phone calls continued to fall as albatross to the years of lost relationship. Thinking he just wanted to “piggyback” on my success, I continued to reject. I continued to hold him to the pain he had caused our family. I wanted to make him feel like he was alone, after all that was his decision. I graduated college and heard he had moved to Denver, Colorado. I didn’t care, I had moved on with my life and my father had nothing to do with it.
Two years later, I received the phone call that would change my perspective forever. My aunt (his sister) had received a call from a hospital in Denver saying my homeless father had collapsed in the middle of January from a mal seizure and was in a state of vegetation. As his closest living relative, they needed me to give the word to “pull the plug.” I gave the word and got a report my father died awhile later. Regret flooded my heart, and I wept. I collapsed on the floor buried in a sea of loss. Loss of opportunities, loss of time, and the loss of relationship that would never be. It was in that moment, I finally began to forgive my father.
It took several years, and much help from the Holy Spirit, to slowly release my dad from the pain his abandonment had caused. But, as I uncovered the pain and secrets that shaped his life and the unforgiveness he had stored in his heart, I began to understand why my father perpetuated the same type of pain in my own life. I began to see him as a broken person in need of salvation, deliverance, and love. As I released him, the most incredible thing happened; I began to love my father again. I began to love the fact that I have his eyes, I began to love the way I organize like him, and I began to simply love the fact I am his daughter. I found as I allowed forgiveness into my heart, I was able to sift out the negative, harmful things he brought to my life, and keep the good, beautiful things to shape his memory.
My forgiveness journey with my father culminated when my husband and I traveled to Colorado the summer of 2013. We decided to visit his grave at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Denver. I remember as we approached the grave, my hands shook knowing this would be a significant moment in my life. I knelt as his grave and wept saying, “I forgive you Daddy. It’s ok. I’m ok. I love you.” After a few moments, I stood and felt the final weight of unforgiveness drop into the grave behind me. From that moment, even my memory of my father has changed. I remember the few sweet moments we shared with gratitude, and I wish he could know me and my beautiful family today. I know he would be proud. Instead of feeling pain and sadness when I think of him, I feel joy and gratitude.
My friends, my prayer for you reading my testimony of healing and forgiveness is that you would allow the Holy Spirit to come in and reveal the places of unforgiveness in your heart today. When you hold another person in contempt, no matter how much pain they’ve caused, you actually hold yourself in a prison as well. Unforgiveness actually blocks the blessings of God for our life. As you forgive, you begin to see others the way Christ sees you. We’ve sinned against the Lord so many times, yet he chooses to love us and sees the beauty He placed in us instead.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” -Ephesians 4:32
I urge you to choose forgiveness just as you have been forgiven. You’ve been cleansed of your transgressions, so Beloved, choose to be free of any shackles the enemy might try to keep you in. Forgive today!
About the author // Robin Halvorson is a part of the Beloved Team. She lives in Roanoke, TX along with her husband, Jordan, two girls, Shiloh & Gabrielle, and her son, Judah. She is a member of New Life Worship and a stay at home mom. With a degree in Communication and Worship Leadership from Oral Roberts University, she was a public speaker for nearly 10 years speaking to students across Texas and the surrounding region about abstinence and bullying.