Today we have the privilege of hearing from Mo Isom! Isom writes, “In my former life I was an All-American soccer goalkeeper, the first female to train with and tryout for an SEC football team, and LSU’s Homecoming Queen. Now I’m a New York Times best-selling author, speaker and blogger, as well as a wife and mom.” Today she is sharing with us an incredible excerpt on forgiveness from her book, Wreck My Life: Journeying from Broken to Bold.
“Loving others deeply doesn’t just apply to those whom we have peace with and whom it feels good to extend love to. Living boldly and loving deeply looks like forgiving freely, no matter whom that forgiveness must be outstretched to. That’s a hard concept to wrap our heads around. Because, in truth, there is probably someone sitting on the forefront of your mind that you have been so wronged by the thought of forgiveness is nauseating. Maybe it was the abuse. Or the rape. Or the theft. Or the deceit. We can think of ten thousand reasons why the people we don’t want to forgive don’t deserve forgiveness for all they put us through. But the fact of the matter is the longer you withhold forgiveness from another, the longer they own a piece of you. And if we believe Christ has bought us, in full, at the price of His own life, then we are robbing ourselves of the freedom that grace grants us when we allow another person to mentally or emotionally or spiritually hold possession over a piece of us.
Maybe it was the infidelity. Or the gossip. Or the abandonment. Maybe it was the suicide. That was the dark chain that still wrapped itself around me.
I had healed in so many ways. It had been years since my dad’s death. But I still harbored resentment toward a man I still believed, at the core, was a coward. A man who had run from the mess he made and taken a foolish way out. A man who had left a wife and two daughters to put back the pieces of a shattered life. Deep down, I blamed so much of my wandering and my promiscuity and my struggles on my dad. Sometimes that was the easier way to process things– to dismiss them as cause-and- effect results of another person’s shortcomings.
>But, in truth, my resentment and my anger and my frustrations were really just rationalizations for a heart that was calloused with years of unforgiveness. My soul still reeked of blame. And while I understood how all-inclusively Christ had forgiven me, I just couldn’t surrender the cemented belief, deep down, that my dad’s actions weren’t worth forgiving.
But in Ephesians 4:31-32, there was a word that stood out to me and helped peel back an unexpected layer in the process of forgiving freely. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Compassion. A sympathy and concern for the misfortunes of others. After coming across those words, compassion was a seed God planted in me and began to nourish. A new thought that began to slowly reframe my perspective of forgiveness. My prayers shifted from, “God, help me forgive more freely.” to “God, you have known the greatest compassion for me in my failings. I long to look more like you. Will you nurture a heart of compassion within me?”
I saw him first as a little boy. My daddy. With his soft olive skin and his round face. Carefree and joy-filled and innocent. A simple southern boy with two parents who loved him, deeply.
I saw him as a young teen, bouncing around from school to school with each of his dad’s job transfers. Bouncing around from football team to football team, trying to establish his footing. Maybe he was bullied—or struggled to feel like he ever really fit any one place. Uprooted and moved every time he’d finally made a name for himself amongst a team.
I saw him as a college football player and, eventually, a law student. Navigating the dating scene and balancing his course load. I smiled imagining what he must have been like so near to me in age—and laughed remembering the time he told me he once dated a girl with the nickname “Toot”. I wondered what his friend group had been like, and what had stirred his passion for law.
I saw him as a young man meeting and falling for my beautiful mommy. I imagined the butterflies he must have felt as he watched her glide down the aisle. The excitement and nervousness he must have felt as he took on the role of husband and they dreamed dreams of a future family.
I could almost feel the warm tears that rolled down his cheeks as he helped deliver my sister and me. As he navigated the highs and lows of carrying the title of daddy. As he wrestled with the pressures of raising preteen girls and the expectation of providing for a busy family.
I ached for how his heart must have broken with the death of his own daddy. How deeply he must have grieved. And I smiled thinking about the laughter he brought to the basketball court as he volunteered his time to coach Special Olympians and other athletes with disabilities.
I ached for the stress and pressure he must have felt when work was tough and money was tight and everything in him wanted to seem strong for his family. And I saw him in a new light as I thought about the demons he admitted to wrestling. The strangleholds that gripped him sexually, in regards to his struggles with pornography. The pride that must have felt so damaged by Satan’s relentless taunts and schemes.
I thought about his insecurities. His deep-rooted weaknesses. And how similar he and I truly were in so many broken ways. I saw the man who was always able to love others far more than he was ever able to love himself sitting on the edge of that hotel bed, his heart pounding and his hand trembling.
My heart broke for that innocent southern boy who truly believed life was worth giving up. The olive-skinned baby who had seen a lot of life and who was worn out and tired and aching.
Compassion bred forgiveness because it allowed me to see another human as just that—human. Worn and ravaged and navigating a broken world, just like me. It gave a history to the action that had wronged me and opened up a broader perspective to understand that even the people who have wronged us so deeply have a story—a reason why sin has a stronghold in their life. Hurt people hurt people. I wasn’t instructed to withhold forgiveness from the hurting, I was instructed to be kind and compassionate, having mercy for the lost and wandering, just as God had mercy for me.
Grace. It’s what had been extended to me. It was what was being called of me. By finally forgiving my father, I encountered an intimacy with Christ that stretched away from logic and made sense of the nonsensical and introduced me to a different kind of humility. A Jesus-kind of humility. That had everything to do with God and little to do with me. I had been foolish to mistake kindness for weakness—the strength of a lion can exist within the spirit of a lamb. Forgiveness is selfless strength. If we want to look even a bit like Jesus, we must embrace the willingness to forgive freely.
This excerpt is from Isom’s New York Times Best-Selling book, Wreck My Life: Journeying from Broken to Bold. To read more from Mo, check out her blog here or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.