During the last 14 years, I have fought hard to forgive Landon’s biological father. It’s been a long road. This week Landon wrote an an autobiography for school, and I was asked to edit it. During that process I came across this sentence that made my heart skip a beat.
“I never knew my biological father. My mom said that he had appeared in her life, changed it forever, ruined it, and disappeared. So my mom took up the hard job of being a single mother”
I immediately changed it to: My mom said that he changed her life forever, and then disappeared.
Landon and I later had a conversation about his paper. I talked to him about how our early years were hard, and different, but not ruined. And just because something was hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Actually, most of the time the things that really are worth it in life require a lot of hard work.
He smiled at me after the conversation as said, “makes sense”.
But I wanted to make sure Landon truly understood, his biological father didn’t ruin my life. He changed it. He didn’t disappear, he told me that he wasn’t ready to be a father. Truth be told, I didn’t fight him on that. At 21 I didn’t know what it was like to be a mother… but, I knew that I wanted to do parenthood with someone who was a willing participant.
To protect Landon I took every precaution I could.
I wanted to make sure if he showed up later, he would have to fight for Landon.
I didn’t ask for money, not one cent. We, as people, have a strange relationship with money. When we pay for things we automatically claim rights to them. Yes, that’s how it works in a store and with most things. But, Landon is not a thing, he is a person. I didn’t want his bio-dad to believe that if he paid for Landon he would have rights to him later.
It was a protective move, along with fighting to keep his name off of Landon’s birth certificate. Derek’s name is now in what was a blank space for so long, and I am so grateful it is there, in it’s earned spot.
The path of single motherhood, it came with its own struggles. Not just the monetary ones, or the struggles of being an outsider. There were normal motherhood struggles with little twists in them.
I remember when Landon was little we used to have this time out bench that sat in the hallway. The bench literally had the words TIME OUT carved into it. And when Landon was three, he did something that warranted a time-out. As I put him on the bench, he looked up at me shouted, “My Daddy said I don’t have to listen to you!!”
I was so thrown off-guard.
WTF did he just say to me?!
… Hell hath no fury like a single mama being challenged by an invisible, “deadbeat dad”.
Sure enough the sentence made another appearance. And I walked away. Over the next month I was challenged by this invisible father figure that he had made up.
When I asked Landon where his Daddy was, he would tell me, “He’s at the airport.” It was very matter of fact to him.
I was tired and didn’t know what to do.
At the time, Derek and I were dating long distance. He reached out to a friend who told him what I could say when Landon used his imaginary father figure against me. I’ll never forget it, “This family doesn’t have a daddy right now, but we have a Mommy, and Mommy says….”
After a few times calmly saying this to him, it worked. Landon stopped challenging me with an imaginary dad, and for a little while I was freed of some guilt.
Many years have passed since then, and Landon and I have had many conversations about his bio-dad. (The real life one, not the imaginary one.)
It’s true, there have been moments of anger toward the man that walked away from me, from us, 14 years ago. I’m human, that’s natural.
I fought hard to keep those moments from Landon. …but, somewhere along the line I must have communicated to him that my life was ruined.
It was harder.
But not ruined.
With Derek’s adoption of Landon, some feelings of resentment resurfaced for a little. Feelings I hadn’t felt about Landon’s bio-dad in a long time.
(Once Landon and I have talked about the events that caused these feelings, then I will write about them. But he’s not ready for those details yet, and this is as much Landon’s story as it is mine.)
.. but here’s the thing, I don’t think about him much at all anymore.
I’ve forgiven him.
And that forgiveness. It’s not for him. The forgiveness is for me, for Landon. It’s for my marriage, my family.
I can’t let someone who is not in my life have control over my life. And that’s what holding onto anger and resentment does to us. It has control over our hearts and minds.
Just as I told Landon, most of the time the things that really are worth it in life require a lot of hard work. Sometimes a job or relationship needs that hard work. But, sometimes it’s forgiveness and letting go of the heavy thoughts and feelings that weigh us down.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)
Once I looked beyond the struggles, and through forgiveness it’s so much easier to see. Our story, it’s sad. But not for us.
Bio-dad has missed out on all the joy that Landon has brought into our world.
Landon was my silver lining baby. My hidden-joy baby.
He was born a day before my parents dating anniversary. He came two days before their wedding anniversary. As we stopped celebrating them, our focus shifted to him.
Landon took his first steps the day my grandmother took her last breath.
Christmas shifted from the divorce and heartbreak, to childhood magic. Landon’s face as he experienced Christmas, pure magic.
He forced us all to stay a family. He re-shifted our focus. He gave us daily joy in the struggle of something so rough and deep.
God. God gave us all those things in Landon.
In Landon’s eyes my life was ruined and I became a strong Mom who sacrificed her youth.
In my eyes, I did my best. I do my best everyday. And everyday I fail. It is by God’s grace that Landon is who he is today.
In God’s eyes I am His child.
I need His forgiveness.
And I need to forgive as He has called me to.
It’s interesting how when we forgive others it’s for us. And when God forgives us… it’s still for us.
The word Forgive means to cancel a debt. But here’s the thing about that debt, those sins we need forgiven, it wasn’t cancelled. It was transferred, to Jesus.
And Jesus didn’t pay off the debt with money or actions. He paid it with his life. The Jesus that we celebrate this Christmas season, the one who was crucified on a cross for me, he forgave my debt. He forgave my sins.
The way he forgave me when I trusted in Him. That is the way I am called to forgive.
And no, I will never be as perfect as Jesus. No I cannot take away someone else’s sins, but I can “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
I hope this Christmas you’re able to give yourself, and others, the gift of forgiveness. When you sit around the table with family, and friends that you can let go of all the things that weigh you down. This Christmas do as the song says, “Have yourself a merry, little Christmas, let your heart be light.”