I was driving down the road a number of years ago when I got the news that my grandmother, my mom’s mom, had passed away. For many people, this would have been crushing news. They might have been forced off to the side of the road with blinding tears . . . not me.

Instead of pain and grief, I felt the heavy weight of unforgiveness come to the forefront of my mind. For a brief moment I considered what my response should be and instead of pressing in and working through what I was thinking about, I said, “Lord, I’m going to have to put a pin in this,” and I went on about my life. There were a number of immediate issues going on in my world that I was working through and I did not have the emotional bandwidth to deal with the death of a woman I barely knew, yet very much disliked.

Now, four years later her life and death are staring me in the face as I prepare to get married soon, and the need to forgive won’t let me go.

What in the world is the connection between these two things? I’m glad you asked. 

Ten little diamonds.

Let me give you some backstory.

I don’t know a lot of details, and for that I am thankful, however, I know enough; I know that my mom, who is one of my most precious gifts, was abused by this woman. I know that the trauma my mom lived through was excruciating and life-altering. I know, from other family members, that my grandmother struggled to show love to some of her other children and lived in the imbalance of seeking love and affection from others outside of her home, while those in her home were suffering from her deficiencies. And to be fair and honest, I know that she suffered immense abuse in her own childhood home. 

If it had not been for the supernatural power and healing of Jesus in my mom’s life, and the presence of some Divinely placed relationships, my mom likely would have repeated the cycle of abuse and continued down the path of addiction that she was traveling. I thank God repeatedly for breaking that generational curse. That’s not to say my childhood was without any flaws. Show me a parent who claims perfection and I’ll show you a parent who’s failed repeatedly. Never mind, I’ll just go look in a mirror. 

I am extremely blessed in my relationship with my mom. While there was still some dysfunction in our home at times, my mom and I have always been very close. She is compassionate, humble, honest, approachable, caring, giving, funny, and loveable. Yes, she drives me crazy sometimes, and she knows it. She still sends me articles on wearing sunscreen and taking my vitamins and tries to incentivize me to watch/read sermons and teachings she finds fascinating. Most importantly, she loves Jesus with every fiber of her being and longs to know Him and make Him known, and she taught me to do the same. I tell her all the time that one of the reasons I have such a close walk with Jesus is because of her example of doing the same through years of hardship and pain.

When I think about my mom as a child, looking for love and only finding trauma, it breaks my heart. I can’t deal with the fact that someone would rage against her physically and emotionally. Over the years, armed with the knowledge of her abuse, I picked up an offense against my grandmother that wasn’t mine to carry. I felt protective of my mom’s childhood and wished I could go back and stop the person who was hurting her. 

A number of years before her death, the Lord began to work in the relationship between my mom and grandmother. It was truly miraculous. My grandmother owned her failures and repented, and my mom was able to forgive because of the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. I was happy for my mom, but I was not ready to go there. 

Fast forward to 2018, and the drive that was interrupted by news of my grandmother’s passing. I knew that I was going to have to deal with my unforgiveness, but as already stated there was too much else going on in my world to even go there. The last time I saw her, I believe I was eight years old. I had not had any contact with her except to send her a thank you card for baby gifts she’d sent the boys (beautiful hand-made knit blankets), but without thinking, I used her first name instead of the term, “Grandma.” I felt badly that it had hurt her feelings, but at the same time, from my perspective, she was more “Shirley” than she was, “Grandma.” The only ‘Grandma’ I knew died when I was in the sixth grade.

In spite of the lack of relationship, years of not knowing each other, my bitterness (which she probably knew nothing of), and jealousy of her relationship with other family members that I observed at a very safe, social media dictated distance, she left my sister and I items that were valuable to her. I received a diamond ring, my sister a diamond necklace. I knew it was coming, my mom had told me years before of the plans to gift these items, and at the time she thought they would be coming before her mother’s death and simply asked that we not sell them until after she died. 

When I received the ring, I considered all the things I could do with it, and ultimately planned to save it for my kids to use in some way. It was gaudy and not my style. My mom asked why I wasn’t going to wear it and I told her quite plainly, “Mom, it’s ugly.” But it was valuable to me because it was valuable to my mom.

Unforgiveness still reigned in my heart. 

When I became engaged this spring and we began to look at options for my wedding band, I suddenly remembered the ring that was tucked away in my room, and I wondered if it could be redesigned and used for my ring. I knew that it would be meaningful to my mom, and therefore, it would be much more meaningful to me. Michael, my fiancé, thought it was a great idea, so we took it in and started the process of having a ring designed. 

A few weeks ago, we went to see the mold and look at the diamonds that had been pulled out of the original setting. They were in a little box, all in a straight line. Ten little diamonds. I took the wax mold and tried it on while looking at the diamonds, and surprisingly, my eyes filled with tears. Michael gave me a curious look. When we got back into the car he asked about the tears, and I told him what I felt in that moment:

“I think it’s about time to forgive my grandmother.”

And so, I’ve been willing, waiting, knowing it was coming. This week I read a devotional on forgiveness, and I asked the Lord, “Who do I need to forgive?” There she was. My grandmother. 

I cannot wear that ring on my finger next month if I have not forgiven her. I can’t wear her diamonds if I don’t let her free from the prison of my mind, and I do not want to join my life to Michael’s if I am harboring unforgiveness. He doesn’t deserve a wife who is stunted and holding on to bitterness and offenses on behalf of others.

Lysa Terkeurst wrote a book a few years ago called, “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget,” and in it she described a process of forgiveness where she wrote offenses down on notecards and, armed with red fabric that symbolized the blood of Jesus, she looked at each offense and chose to forgive, and then prayed (not verbatim), “Whatever forgiveness my feelings don’t allow for, surely the blood of Jesus will cover,” and then placed the red fabric on them. This process has stayed with me, and I pray through the concept often. There are some in our lives that will be repeat offenders that will require the 70×7 forgiveness rule that Jesus spoke of. Others that we only need to forgive once, but we may still have big feelings about. I had big feelings on this one.

Forgiveness does not mean that whatever was done against us doesn’t matter anymore – we absolutely must learn and be informed by every trial that we endure. Trust needs to be rebuilt or a boundary needs to be put in place. Forgiveness simply means that I have released the offender from what I believe they owe me because of their actions. It means I don’t need an apology, or any kind of atonement. It means, “It is finished.”

I have learned in some of those 70×7 situations that releasing forgiveness to others also releases me from a heavy weight and obsessive thoughts, and so in many situations, forgiveness now comes quickly and easily because I know there is relief on the other side. It is too exhausting to carry unforgiveness around. I have more important things to carry. 

This issue with my grandmother was not one that was on my mind often, it slid under the radar most of the time. But when I did think of it, I experienced a great heaviness. I felt an obligation to protect my mom through my unforgiveness – which makes absolutely no sense at all. It is not a loving act to remain bitter and angry, no matter what the situation. Besides that, I am not my mom’s defender. I could never be. But Jesus is. And Jesus showed me how He was present with my mom in her pain and suffering. He showed me how He has used it for His glory, even in the act of forgiveness that happened between her and her mom. Jesus was glorified, and that is what this life is about. Jesus has used my mom’s life to glorify Him in the most incredible ways, and He actively protects her from being treated poorly by others. In fact, He has filled her life full of people who love her and are willing to do anything for her. He uses all things for His glory. He empowered my mom to forgive, and because of that, and His forgiveness of me and all the ways I fail Him daily, He has empowered me to forgive as well.

As I sat with that revelation, I had no other option but to take my offenses before the Lord this week and finally forgive my grandmother. It wasn’t easy. I’ve held a lifetime of bitterness against this woman because of how she treated one of the most beloved people in my life. There were a lot of tears as I released her from what I felt like she owed me and my mom. I used Lysa’s tool and confessed that I might still have residual feelings from time to time that need the covering of Jesus blood, I know from experience that I will need to remind myself that I have chosen to forgive and that I no longer want to be held captive by anger, bitterness, and resentment toward this woman. As long as I continue to be willing to forgive, God can do His work and bring me to a place of complete forgiveness. I’m not standing in His way anymore.

And so, from my wedding day on, when I look down at my ring and see my grandmother’s diamonds, I will always be reminded of Jesus’ gift of forgiveness that we get to give one another. Forgiveness is one of the foundation blocks of our faith. I think it’s a pretty great foundation for a marriage, too.