Featured #TellHisStory Author: Leslie Leyland Fields (And a Giveaway)
#TellHisStory Storytellers Series
Story has the power to change the world, one paragraph at a time. I share this space, once a week, with some great storytellers I’ve met during my years of writing.
This week’s featured storyteller is Leslie Leyland Fields, an award-winning author of eight books and a contributing editor for Christianity Today. She’s giving away TWO copies of her latest book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate.
Be sure to come back Wednesday to link your own stories or photos with us in the #TellHisStory community.
Does Forgiveness Reach All the Way to You?
Do you know you are forgiven—of everything? Then what is that load you are carrying, sister? May I help?
We know the theology of forgiveness already. We know that “forgive as we’ve been forgiven” is to make us an outward-looking, forgiving people. Forgiveness is not to be hoarded as our very own treasure. Paul urges us, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” How else to say this? We have been forgiven that we may forgive others and live out the reckless, perfect compassion of a God whose love for the world and for us knows no bounds.
How far does this forgiveness extend? What of those who have suffered the most horrific offenses: murder, rape, destitution? Does it still hold up? Must we still forgive? The 2008 documentary film As We Forgive follows the path of three people in Rwanda, ten years after the 1994 genocide. One man killed another with a machete in the maelstrom of the Hutu-Tutsi annihilation. Ten years later, he is in the presence of the murdered man’s daughter, unable to look at her, consumed by shame and guilt. His only desire is to be forgiven by her. She has lost most of her family in the killings and has little desire to forgive this man. She didn’t even want to see his face, but over a period of months, through the encouragement of a Rwandan mediator, she agreed to see him.
The camera does not lie. When they meet, her face is troubled; she is angry, deeply unnerved by his presence, which painfully resurrects all the murdered members of her family. She cannot forgive. We understand. Over weeks and months, she continues to meet with a mediator.
In the end, the camera catches her bright face as she joins a group of men and women and children carrying bricks to build a new home for another victim of the genocide. Through months of talking, praying, she is forgiving the man who killed her father. She is beginning to smile again.
Is that really possible? But you may be stuck at the starting point, thinking you are beyond forgiveness yourself. Something you’ve done, something that’s festering in a dark pocket in your heart. I don’t know what you’ve done, but I know what Peter did, the disciple who loved Jesus most passionately. Peter, who dropped everything—his job, his friends, his family—to chase after this strange man, Jesus. After three years of witnessing the most astounding healings and teachings, after declaring his undying commitment and love for the man he had come to believe was the Son of God, after vowing to follow Him to the death, Peter abandoned Him the very night he was needed most. Terrified for his own safety, he said, “I don’t know that man” not once, but three times, the last time in the hearing of Jesus Himself, who looked straight into his eyes while being led away to die. He chose his own small life over the Son of God’s life. Three times.
That’s us. We’ve all denied Jesus. We’ve all turned away from him at key moments and in pathetically trivial moments, when nothing was at stake. We’ve turned away from one another. We’ve denied one another. We are all guilty. But if the one with the greatest responsibility and knowledge can commit the worst sin and be forgiven—so can you. Don’t be stopped by your own failings and sin. God knows all about them. God’s taken care of it. Whatever you did, or think you did, it’s gone, gone. Believe it. Walk in the freedom He has already given you. That He keeps on giving you.
Believe this not just for yourself. Believe it for the sake of others. It will be hard to forgive others until you really understand how entirely forgiven you are.
This is who we are, women. We are a found, forgiven, and celebrated people given full freedom in Christ that we may live a God-ward life of mercy toward all, a life of feeding others. That’s the job Jesus gave to Peter after forgiving him. You remember the scene. Three times:
“Peter, do you love me?”
“You know that I love you!”
“Feed my sheep.”
Again and again. Jesus forgave Peter not simply to free him for his own sake, but for others’ sake: “Feed my lambs.”
Our forgiveness comes with the same call to action:
Do you love me?
Feed my sheep.
Forgive as you have been forgiven.
is an award-winning author of eight books, a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a national speaker, a popular radio guest, and a sometimes commercial fisherwoman, working with her husband and 6 children in commercial fishing on Kodiak Island, Alaska where she has lived for 36 years. Leslie Leyland Fields
Her latest book is Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.
HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
Leslie is giving away two copies of her book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate.
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Leslie …how sweet it is to see you here at Jennifer’s wonderful community.
forgiveness…this really has been a growing process…receiving God’s complete…unmerited forgiveness for me…and I now see…I only give from what I have and know…once I understood God was not a miserly God with His love ,mercy and grace…but a very generous God…Then I too could be generous as well.
As always Leslie…wonderful truths spoken here…thanks
I would love a chance to win the book…thanks Jennifer and Leslie for the opportunity.
Hi Ro! Good to see you here! I am blessed to be among you all! I love your word “miserly.” So good. God is the absolute antithesis of that—and so should we be .. . No more “measure for measure.” Instead, generosity and abundance. Blessings, dear friend!
This truly resonates with me. I am learning grace as one who is learning to speak another language…tentatively but with growing confidence. I have battled unforgiveness but am wanting to forgive as I have been forgiven by my Father. I’d love to read Leslie’s book. (Her Surviving the Island of Grace was a favorite of mine last year.)
Hi Julie. thanks for writing in. It is indeed another language, and we get better and better as we speak it (from the heart.) Your name goes in the hat!
I enjoyed the post. Glad to connect here
Hey Angie! Will be talking with you soon!
I have a loved one stuck deep in unforgiveness of her father, and I know she needs to hear from someone other than me about the way her life can change by embracing forgiveness. I would like to give her this book and would so appreciate being gifted a copy as funds are scarce in my life, although abundance–through my own forgiving–is not.
Cathy, thanks so much for your reply. Sorry to hear about your friend. WIll let you know about the book asap!
Great story!! Unforgiveness of ourselves is always the hardest 🙁
Beautiful post! We must forgive so that we find the freedom to feed others. Powerful truth. I would love the opportunity to read the entire book. Thank you!
I love this. I have been practicing forgiveness in my life. I say practicing because, I’m pretty sure I don’t have it all figured out yet. But, I keep at it. It is hard to forgive others until you understand how completely forgiven you are.
Sarah—indeed, this is so true. One of the things missing in our human understanding is the utter holiness of God. You sound patient and persevering—and GOd honors that! Thanks for reading!
I read this last night on my phone but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to leave comments from that blessed thing.
I’ve been following some of your posts around the internets, Leslie, and I’m grateful you are sharing your story of forgiveness. I think back to seasons in my life when I’ve had a hard time forgiving others, knowing full well it was something I needed, wanted, and was commanded to do. But I just could muster the means within myself to do so.
The forgiveness came eventually, not because I tried harder, but because Christ drew me more deeply into His love and His forgiveness. It took awhile, but , but it felt so good to be relieved of the burdens I’d been carrying.
Looking forward to reading more from you–and, of course, I’d love to win a copy of your book!
Nancy, good to meet you here! Your story is inspiring and helpful, and I think so very true—that it is our apprehension of Christ’s love for us that begins to move us out of our hurts and into a larger place, that brings compassion for that wounding person. Thanks for sharing that!! (Please feel free to friend on FB!)
Jennifer, How wonderful to see you open up your space to one of my favorite writers. Leslie, thank you for your words today. They have the kind of power and beauty that only come when their writer has truly lived them. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Christie, thanks so much for being here—and for reading. It’s so good to know there is a tribe of us out there desiring, and starting, to live out these truths ….
Jennifer – I have started following Leslie and was so glad to see her here. Two shining lights on the same page! Yay! It was my turn to pray as we went around the table, I prayed for my sister and we prayed about forgiveness, and I was filled with these words – “You know those sins of yours that were nailed to the cross? The ones that Jesus told us had paid our debt in full? Well those sins of your fellow man that you are holding onto? They ones you can’t forgive? Yeah, those. They were nailed to that cross too. So, what are you holding onto anyway? It’s already been settled.” It was such a refreshing way to see the power of forgiveness – His forgiveness – and the gift he gave us so we can give it to others. Thank you for sharing such a powerful message today.
Kelly, what a great prayer. Thanks for sharing. There is SO much work to do within our families (mine as well). I see it’s already beginning in yours …. May God continue to bring life and light into the dark places!
This is such a painful topic. It has destroyed relationships within our 6 siblings. Please enter me in the drawing. Would love to share with you. Thanks
Laura, so sorry to hear this … and I know about this also, in my own family (with the same number of sibs.) Thankful beyond words that God has swept me into His family, and you as well. This family of sisters-in-Christ can help us redeem and reclaim our other family …. one bit at a time. (I hope you win a book!)
I walked the long road of forgiving my parents and by “long road” I mean the leaning just how much we are alike in our brokenness and need of grace. It was a process to realize this; to be given sight. And still I forget this when in my own home I often get so bent out of shape and irritated when grace isn’t given for another . . . and I look in the mirror and see a huge plank hanging out of my own eye right there, needing to be yanked out but that God so gently plucks out. Remembering that we are all the same, all in need of grace . . . and no one is any better than another . . . I have found the freedom to love fully and recklessly and free.
Keep looking for Him beyond our circumstances, beyond ourselves . . . that’s what I hear and that’s what I’ve experienced.
Amy—-Amen to all you’ve written. I so agree, that we share far more with our parents than we often want to see. We are all twisted up, splintered, shattered, that we all share God-made-ness, we all share the possibility of redemption. So many ways we share in the”universal disaster of sinful brokenness.” This is the starting point of forgiveness, for sure. Thank you for sharing your story!