This past week I was overwhelmed with emotion as I listened to my eldest son recount the pain he experienced when Lee, my wife and his mother, died. His response was to shut down and let no-one into what he called “his box”–especially God. He lived that way for more than two years. Holding the door shut from the inside became exhausting and the time came when he could no longer keep the door closed.
That was just over two years ago and I remember the day as if it was yesterday. All the pain, shame, anger and guilt he had been trying to suppress reached a point where they could no longer be kept inside. Thankfully, he was willing to confide in me. Pain and anger were understandable. Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one can relate; I certainly could. But, for a young boy who had his mother taken away the pain was intense and the anger at God for allowing her to die…there was a special intensity.
But, why the shame and guilt? Place yourself where he was. He hated that his mom was sick and sometimes found his anger expressing itself in ways that he regretted. But when Lee died he was stuck with no way to apologize to her for how he treated her. As I talked with him I learned the source of the shame and guilt and how it had jaundiced his memories. Every memory he had of Lee was followed with the accusation, “…And you were a jerk to her!”
My heart broke. As we talked I learned that he had asked God for forgiveness, but it didn’t seem to be enough. I asked him if he had forgiven himself. He had not.
We talked further about the power of forgiveness, that Lee was surely not looking down from heaven echoing the accusations he was hearing whenever she came to mind. God had forgiven him. We were confident that Lee would have, as well. What remained was for Rob to give grace to the twelve year-old boy he was when Lee died and forgive himself for the things he had done.
I know now that it was after that conversation that Rob found the strength to open himself to God and reach out to Him for the strength to remove his self-applied shackles. Within two days that his countenance had lifted. When I asked him why, he told me, “I realized I didn’t need to be carrying that anymore.”
It was that simple.
Here’s a link to the video I recorded of him sharing his testimony. Ben, my second eldest son, provided the intrduction.