Written by Raganata Bramantyo, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
I used to hate my father. In my eyes, he was a compulsive gambler, a hypocrite and someone not worthy of being a father.
On one occasion, he came home at the crack of dawn after a long night of gambling. He had lost 10 million rupiahs (SGD $1,039) that night. Sore and resentful, he took his anger out on my mother and I. Yelling, he kicked and punched the furniture in our house. Even my mother, who was cooking, was not spared. I watched helplessly as my father mocked and swore at her. He even tried to hit her.
I was sick of this treatment. Enraged, I approached him and slammed the kitchen door. I exploded in anger, shouting: “I don’t care about your gambling problems. It is your choice to gamble and your consequences to bear whether you win or lose. But can you at least not bring problems from outside into our house?”
He answered by attempting to punch me in the face. Dodging it, I ran outside as my father cursed and swore at me. I hated him so much. I did not want to acknowledge him as my father.
Not knowing where to go, I rode my bicycle aimlessly. I did not want to go back home—I knew my quarrel had made the situation at home very ugly. I decided to go to my home church, which was five minutes away. It was not a Sunday, and hence, there weren’t many people around. However, I still hoped I would meet a church friend there who could cheer me up.
I sat in church, daydreaming for hours. The scene of my outburst in the morning kept replaying in my mind. My heart felt as if it was being torn apart as I recalled all the unkind things my father had done to our family. It was not the first time he had gambled and vented his frustration on us. In fact, whenever he lost money gambling, he would hurt my mom, slapping and hitting her. It made me so sad that I could do nothing to stop it.
Fortunately, my friend came to church that day to retrieve his bicycle, which he had parked in the church garage. Seeing me in that state, he asked me what had happened. Sobbing, I tried to explain what had happened. My friend hugged me without saying a word.
That evening, I decided to go home. I hadn’t brought money or clothes out with me and I felt bad leaving my mother alone at home. When I got back, I learned that my father had gone out to gamble again.
Deciding to Forgive
As I lay in bed that night, I was hurt and angry. I began to question my self-identity as a Christian. I was reminded of my baptism in 2004, when I promised to follow Jesus with all my heart. Following Jesus meant extending forgiveness the same way God did. If God could forgive a sinner like me by sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, then did I have a right not to forgive other fellow sinners? Was I a true believer if I refused to forgive my own father?
Even as I prayed to God for a solution, the verses God impressed upon me were all about forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 had made it clear to me: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus even told Peter to forgive 70 times seven times (Matthew 18:22).
To be honest, that verse sounded very clichéd to me. I felt like I had heard it many times, whether through Sunday School or sermons. Then I remembered Matthew 18:22, which talks about the core of the Christian faith—the receiving of forgiveness and the act of forgiving.
Reading that verse, I gave in. I couldn’t bear the burden of hating my father anymore, and I wanted to release all my pent-up hatred. That verse had clearly told me to forgive my father. However, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
In my desperation, I prayed: “God, please grant me the strength to forgive him.” God listened to my prayer. After praying, I calmed down and thought through the incident carefully.
I realized that it was partly my fault. I had allowed my anger to take over me and yelled at my father. Instead of being patient with him, I chose to fight fire with fire. I should have used water to extinguish the flame. That water was forgiveness, which would eventually dissolve the hatred in me.
Fearing that he was still upset at me, I texted my father, saying: “I apologize for what I did.” After apologizing, I felt so relieved and peaceful, I slept without any worries that night. The next day, I approached him and apologized again. Although I was initially disappointed that he didn’t say anything, I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about. I had already done what was right in God’s eyes.
Little did I know that apologizing to my father was the first step in setting myself free from the grudges and selfishness inside me. I came to believe that no matter who was in the wrong, I should apologize first. The act is important to me because when I apologize, I am humbling myself. Knowing that I had done what was pleasing to Him, I felt great joy. I also became certain that forgiveness would set me free from any hatred.
Forgiving My Father
It has been years since I forgave my father for the first time. In 2012, I went to a college outside my hometown and found a job in Jakarta. I no longer live under the same roof as him. Up till now, my father is still gambling.
I’ve learned that forgiveness might not change those who have hurt us or improve our condition. However, as we forgive others, we learn to be like Jesus. Forgiving him has helped me view the situation from another perspective—I don’t resent him anymore.
When Jesus was mocked and tortured on His way to Calvary, He didn’t curse or mock them in return. Instead, He prayed for them. It is written in Luke 23:34 that “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
I have started to pray that my father will one day know Jesus. As time progresses, I have talked to him bit by bit—something that seemed impossible in the past. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that forgiveness is just like a seed that we plant. If we take care to water and nurture it, it will grow and bear fruit one day. The seed of forgiveness bears fruits of peace and reconciliation.
I can learn to forgive only because God first forgave me for all my sins. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are now reconciled with the Father and can have peace.
Just as the Father has forgiven us, will you follow His example? Will you let go of your pride and forgive those who have hurt you?
Even if you find it difficult to forgive now, it doesn’t mean you can never do so. Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process.
Let us remember the forgiveness that was first extended to us and forgive just as God has forgiven us, for He can grant us the strength to do so.