By: Michaelle Burbank

3567 Votes

Forgiveness - Michaelle Burbank

Cathedral Catholic High School

Michaelle Burbank

C.S. Lewis once said, "To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." When I was little, forgiveness was a very easy thing. It didn't require much effort to accept the apology of someone who had stolen your pencil in third grade or maybe pushed you a little too hard during tag at recess. It was also very easy to ask for forgiveness -- I had a strong relationship with God and I felt that I could ask Him and other people like my parents or friends to forgive me of small offenses like staying up past my bedtime or lying about insignificant things.

As I started to get older however, I learned that forgiveness was not always going to be about small things, and that I was not always going to be quick to forgive.

In 2009, my family experienced a series of really traumatic events. My dad, who had been in the Marine Corps for a long time, was diagnosed with combat PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder. At the time, I had no idea what this meant, but only saw how drastically my family life began to change. In months leading up to his diagnosis, I noticed he began to drink heavily, and he was very angry a lot of the time. He would slam doors and break furniture and yell so loudly and I never even knew what for. I remember taking my little brother and sister and holding them in my room to distract them a lot of the time. Despite knowing what was wrong with him, my dad refused to seek any sort of therapy, though he desperately needed it. Instead, he used alcohol to cope. There were days where he'd never come home that night, and days where my mom would leave to go to local bars and look for him. One night we found him passed out on the street. Another, he was running on the shoulder lane of the freeway. And one morning, my mom told me she had to pick him up because he had gotten a DUI.

I hated whoever this man was, because I knew he wasn't my dad. He spent more time with a bottle than with me and my siblings. I couldn't talk to him anymore. He was a completely different person, and he treated me like he didn't know me, even though I was the one taking care of him and cleaning up his vomit on the kitchen floor after his nights at the bar. And through all of this, my mom stayed with him, doing her best to help him and protect us from the worst parts of him, but we still saw them. Weeks after his DUI, my mom learned that she had a miscarriage, and also that my dad was having an affair. She tried to keep this from us as well, but I overheard too many fights late at night when they thought we were sleeping. She considered divorce, but never went through with it. And she forgave him, but I didn't. I didn't understand how he could do this to us, to my mom -- who is so beautiful and so deserving of happiness. My dads alcohol addiction continued for years, with no sign of getting better.

One night, he had come home and gotten into a horrible argument with my mom. I remember she took all of us in the car and we left and sat in the parking lot of Target. We sat there for maybe an hour, in complete silence. I felt this overwhelming feeling that something horrible was going to happen, but I stayed silent in the backseat, and I prayed that my dad would get better. But still felt this feeling in my gut, that something was wrong, so I prayed again and asked God to help me ask my mom to go back home. And He did. And I said, "mom we need to go back." And after a moment of silence, she said "I know." Upon coming home, we saw the doorway wide open, and I immediately panicked. I ran upstairs to find my dad with a gun to his head. And he was sobbing. And I remember screaming and trying to grab it from him. Everything was very blurry, and the cops came and we had a lot of meetings with therapists, but I felt completely numb. What hurt the most for me was that him trying to kill himself, meant that he didn't believe he had anything worth living for, even when he was one of the most important people in my life, and even though he had done horrible things, I still needed him.

My relationship with God quickly faded, as well. I lost faith in Him, and I blamed Him for all the bad things that had happened because it was the only way I could make sense of my life. I stopped going to mass every week. I stopped praying. I began to do poorly in school. My dad lived away from us for many months, and I told my friends that he was on a business trip. Sometimes we would visit him, but I hated it, because I hated him. He would apologize over and over and promise to try to be a better father, but they seemed empty to me. He had alienated many of his friends, so really we were all he had, which made me feel guilty for resenting him, but I couldn't help but feel that way after everything that had happened. Years passed, and he had been treated for depression and given lots of medication for PTSD and his Bipolar disorder, and my mom let him come back home, but everything was different. I was in high school and I had a better grasp at what was going on, and my almost nonexistent relationship with God and my dad affected how I felt about everything. I began to act out, and drink a lot. I hung out with guys that were way too old for me, and that took advantage of the fact that I was young and vulnerable. I dropped out of the youth group I was forced into. I felt like I couldn't trust anyone, and it was hard forming relationships with people because I couldn't even trust the first man who was supposed to show me what love was, and who was supposed to treat my mom with respect and be faithful to her and to us.

A turning point had come at the end of sophomore year when my dad joined a group called Wounded Warrior Pack that gave service dogs to disabled military members who had combat PTSD, TBI's or MST. My dad had made friends with all of these people and was now training our new service dog, Jazz. He would take us to the meetings every week, and I got to meet a lot of teenagers my age who had gone through similar, almost exact things that I had gone through, and it really opened my eyes. I realized how blessed I was to have this little family of support, and now, a way for my dad to heal properly. They offered different options for therapy that my dad underwent and finally, life seemed like it was getting better. Though my dad fell into a depression again the summer of senior year, things were a lot more hopeful. I had reflected on the damage that I had contributed to the broken relationship between God and I, and I prayed and prayed for forgiveness and strength. I still however, held a strong resentment for my dad. But looking back, I realized that God forgave me for everything that I did. And God of all beings, should be the one to refuse to forgive me. God, the perfect and beautiful, should be the one to reject me, a lowly sinner, so undeserving. But He waits with an open heart and open arms for me, and welcomes me back time and time again after all I have done. After the countless times I have wronged Him, and he STILL forgives me. He sent his only Son for me, his blood poured out, so MY sins could be forgiven. And Jesus, on that cross, as they crucified Him could have said anything to punish the sinners. He could have told His Father to send storms and plagues to avenge him and yet he calls to Him in his final moments and says, "Forgive them father, for they know not what they do." So who am I to deny forgiveness? When God still sees me as worthy of it, after all of my transgressions.

We are meant to forgive as God has forgiven us. It is not always easy -- at times it feels as though forgiving the one who caused our wound hurts more than the wound itself. And it takes time. It takes courage, it takes strength. But when we finally forgive, after holding onto all of our resentment, we have peace. We have hope. We can reconcile with the ones we love, the ones we hurt, and the ones who hurt us. Our futures can no longer be threatened by our past because we've chosen to let go of even the most painful things which hold us back. My relationship with my dad is still on the mend, and it won't be perfect any time soon, but after all of my hardships, my anger, my resentment, my pain, I've learned to forgive the inexcusable in others, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me.