A Note from Hixon Frank
Hixon Frank

Hey Church,

There was a “pregnant pause” after the question was asked…

A pastor, now in his later 60’s, wasn’t sure how to respond. He had served for 4 decades as a church pastor, preached over 3000 messages, raised 4 kids, and was known for his insight and for being humble, generous, and unflappable.

But on this day, he was in front of our staff as a guest and was fielding questions from those of us willing to speak up.

After I noticed his hesitation, I thought I would ask again, but this time be more specific. “In 4 decades of serving the local church, what has been your greatest challenge? Or maybe one of your greatest challenges,” I reiterated.  

Again, the seasoned pastor hesitated.  I would find out later that he was debating whether to answer in a way that reinforced his reputation or tell the truth. His countenance became serious, and it was obvious that he was about to get very vulnerable.

“To be honest, I don’t know that I have fully overcome the biggest challenge.”    

Clearing his throat he continued, “For years I have struggled with bouts of depression and anger. Being a pastor has its share of setbacks and criticisms, as most jobs do. My challenges have to do with facing the havoc wrought by my alcoholic father and the fact that my oldest daughter married a man who physically abused her and sexually abused their special needs daughter.”

You could have heard a pin drop…

He continued in a matter-of-fact fashion, as if he could only get through it by remaining detached, “21 years ago, our oldest daughter got married to a man we had come to treat like family. Less that 7 years after they wed, everything fell apart as our worst nightmares became reality. We discovered undeniable proof that he was verbally and physically abusing our daughter. I was helpless to do anything, as he became increasingly belligerent and defensive, even as we tried to love him through it. His alcohol, drug, and porn addictions seemed to be spiraling out of control.  Not long after we realized our daughter was in danger, we learned our young granddaughter was also being abused whenever he was at home alone with her.  I was furious. For years I had dealt with anger from my own childhood, but now my anger and sadness became unbearable. And it broke me.”

We had all come to the staff development meeting to get better at the “X’s and O’s” of ministry, but we were watching a mature, godly man wrestle with the one thing that, if we are honest, we all wrestle with… FORGIVING OTHERS.

“Even after he was arrested, tried, and sent to prison, I could not shake my anger.  Why would God allow this?  How could I be so blind as to allow this monster into our family?”

Most importantly, how could I read…  

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly father will forgive you as well. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

Then he said something that only a man who had suffered so greatly could say with personal conviction.  

“I have had to forgive the man who abused me when I was a child,” then he continued, “I have had to forgive the man who abused my daughter and granddaughter because I am unable to carry it and walk well with Jesus.  Though he never asked me to, I have spent the last 50 years of my life forgiving my father. And the last 15 years forgiving my former son-in-law for what they did.” 

Then silence, as the room adjusted to the seriousness of the moment. After the needed break, our senior pastor disturbed the silence saying, “Tell our team how to do that.”

“It’s not easy, and to be honest, I haven’t always lived it out well, but I will tell you that I am never more like Jesus than when I forgive the unforgivable. I am never more joyful than when I trust God with the events of my life. I am never stronger in my faith, I am never more joyful or fulfilled, and I am never a better picture of the Gospel than when I forgive.”

My strategy to forgive is simple:

  1. Ask God to show me my own sin and the ways I have hurt others.
  2. Confess my own sin, as they are without excuses and rationalization. My sin was dark and evil and God forgave me of it! (1 John 1:9)
  3. Ask God to help me forgive the person/people who caused me pain.

He wrapped up the meeting by quoting…

Ephesians 4:31

Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.

“Realize God’s forgiveness is always followed by a  “ . ” (period because it is final).  Man’s forgiveness is often followed by a “ , ” (comma because it is usually not final).

God may initially give you 5 minutes where you walk in forgiveness…. Then the anger or bitterness comes back. But stay at it…. then he may give you 10 minutes, then 30 minutes… then half a day… But God will honor your efforts to forgive and He will bless you for it!

But the only way you get there is through forgiving the ones who wounded you…even if what they did is unforgivable.”

I have never forgotten that meeting and the things that were shared. While I am hesitant to tell the Pastor’s name, (feel free to ask me in person) he passed away last week at the age of 84, leaving a legacy of being humble, generous, unflappable, and FORGIVING…just like Jesus.

You’ve been prayed for this week!