Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Miracle of Forgiveness

My sister called at 2 AM a few days ago. She didn't realize it was that late here.

"I hope it's not the middle of the night," she started.

"Oh, it is," I told her.

"You're kidding,"

"No, it's really like 2 in the morning."


"Well, 1:30, yeah. But don't worry. I'm still up."

"You sound up."

"Oh, I am up."

I probably should have been in bed. But I wasn't. Instead I was IMing my mom. I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I've been pretty emotional so talking with my mom felt good. And when you live this far away sometimes it's just easier to stay up late chatting than it is to chat during normal wake hours. There's a little give and take. Either I stay up late or my mom has to. And I needed to talk.

My sister ran away 16, almost 17, years ago and my family has been haunted by the effects of this ever since. I was 6 when she ran away. And I was hurt. Badly. I wanted her back.

At first we thought that she had been kidnapped, but then when she was found and refused to come home we began to believe that she had willfully left our home.

She came home eventually, only to run away again. Time after time. I stopped wanting her back. I was still worried about her. Always worried. But I was also afraid of her. Her life had taken a bad turn and she was not the person I once knew and I did not want her to come back.

And, oh, how I hated her!

I hated her for leaving me, mostly. I hated not knowing where she was. I hated wondering if she was dead or alive. I hated driving through Vancouver and looking at all the woebegone teenagers living on the streets and wondering which one was her.

But I hated other things, too.

I hated her friends. I hated when she'd bring them around the house. I almost died of embarrassment when she and her current boyfriend showed up at my baptism dressed all in black and smelling like I don't even want to know what. You'd think that I would have been happy to have my sister come to my baptism. I should have been. But I wasn't. I was mortified.

I hated her choices. She just did bad things. Lots of bad things. I hated that I couldn't trust her. I hated that she scared me. I hated that my sister left one day, out of the blue, and a monster returned in her place.

She's improved over the last few years. First she got worse, a lot worse, and then she got a bit better. Then worse again. And then better. She's been steadily better the past few years and although I wanted to forgive her, I've been having trouble doing so.

I've been working on it for years and years, but the effects of what happened seemed too far-reaching in my life. D&C 64:9 has never been too far away from my mind: Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't always come easily to me. It's something that I have to work at.

A few days ago, though, she explained some things that she probably should have told us 16 years ago, but couldn't.

When I read what she wrote the anger that I had been carrying around for most of my life dissolved. I mourned for my sister. I mourned for the sisterly relationship that we haven't developed. I mourned for my angry inner six-year-old.

And then I rejoiced because I was, at last, free. I no longer blamed my sister. She hadn't meant to hurt me. Just knowing that made it possible for me to forgive her, for real this time.

I feel like I can be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, and a better sister because I'm no longer carrying around this mammoth-sized grudge. The feelings I had were, truly, miraculous. I felt so touched by the spirit, and so happy.

So, I was talking to my mom, trying to help her cope with these new facts, trying to convince her that it wasn't her fault and that she's a good mother. Because she is. She's a wonderful mother.

I'm not sure whether I was able to convince her of that before she signed off, but I hope I was.

Andrew and I were getting ready to go to bed when the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and noticed that it was my sister. And for the first time in years I picked up the phone without groaning first. I wanted to talk to her. I was excited to talk to her.

We had a good conversation.

But, our family isn't the greatest at communicating. I've been reminded of Over the Hedge the last few days, every time I think of communicating because we're really not good at it.
Verne: If you needed the food, we would have let you have it. That's what families do.
RJ: Wish you'd have told me that sooner.
Verne: Yeah, well that's bad communication. Another thing families do.
So, in keeping with our bad communication, I didn't tell her any of what I was feeling. We'll just take things one day at a time. Forgiveness today, communication tomorrow.

I was bothered though, when she said that she didn't feel she was Celestial Kingdom material. She said that Heavenly Father probably reaches a point where he has to lay down the line and say "enough is enough." She said that she keeps repenting but then making the same mistakes.

I told her the rule of 70 times 7. But I still didn't tell her how I was feeling right then.

So I want to tell her here how I feel.

I blamed you for things I shouldn't have, probably. Definitely. I wrongfully accused you and I hope you can one day forgive me.

That said, for years I've been angry and unable to forgive you. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I prayed I just couldn't find any forgiveness. And then you shared a few of the thoughts and intentions of your heart and I was able to understand (a little) and forgive (a whole lot).

I never thought I'd be able to forgive you, truthfully. I thought it would take superhuman powers. I'm convinced that without the help of the Lord I wouldn't have forgiven you. So in fact it did take superhuman powers.

I realize that I'm not in charge of saying who God forgives and who he doesn't forgive, but I do know that he hasn't given up on you.

I was amazed at the feelings of peace I had when I finally forgave you. Forgiveness isn't tangible, but for a minute there I was convinced that it was.

Heavenly Father loves you more than I do and He knows all the thoughts and intentions of your heart. And He's patient. So kind and patient. He gives us a whole lifetime to work things out.

I am an imperfect person, as are you. We belong to an imperfect family. We love you imperfectly. We never gave up on you and pray for you every day.

Heavenly Father is perfect. We are His children and belong to His family. He loves us perfectly and I know that He wants us all to return to live with Him someday. He hasn't given up on either one of us.

So, please, keep trying. You keep trying and I'll keep trying. I want our family to be together forever. It's exhausting to be good, but it is so worth it!

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
That he should extend his great love unto such as I
Suficient to own, to redeem and to justify.

I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay my debt
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me.
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I believe
that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Including you and me. Thanks for being my sister. And thanks for calling me at 2 AM. I needed to hear your voice.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


  1. I've learned more about you and your family today, than I've ever known in my life. Andrew is so lucky to be married to you.

  2. Nancy, I love you so so much. I am so glad that you are a my sister now. The things that you said about to your sister in this posting were very powerful. It touched me dearly. I am so very happy to have you in my life for eternity!!

  3. This is so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing with me and others. It reminds me that I still have people in my life that I need to forgive and also to ask forgiveness of. Thanks for that reminder. I'm glad you and your sister on are better terms now. I'll be praying for you, your sister, and your mom, as you all are extremely special people.

  4. Nancy, we have never met & you probably don't even know who I am. My name is Daelyn Hooley. I am Andrew's cousin, from Karen's side. Her brother, Clark, is my dad. I recently found your blog through Bryan & Bethany. I was so excited because I hadn't ever seen Rachel. She is so beautiful!

    I just wanted to tell you how touched & moved I am about this post. It has sparked thoughts & feelings about things that I really needed to be reminded of. Please tell your sister that she is not alone in her journey towards being ok with herself & the Lord. Thank you for sharing this small part of you & your family. I promise that it helps more than you or your sister may realize.

  5. You are a brave person to share so publicly some of the hurts and feelings that were so big and prabably rather private to you. You are also teaching us all a lesson. Thanks. That hymn is my favorite because it helps me to internalize that the Atonement was for me individually. love you!

  6. Though not a member of your family I deeply appreciate being given a link to this blog. My son is in a similar situation to Nancy's sister. Tears ran down my face while reading your account, Nancy, of the joy forgiveness can bring. It is at times such as this that unconditional love doesn't even begin to describe the raw feelings of a mother for her troubled son. I would do anything to help my son make the right decisions but he is so far from the light right now. It gives me a small sense of what the Savior went through in Gethsemane and what he goes through each and every day.