Student of Forgiveness
I’m Kathryn. I’m a wife, a mother, grandmother, married for 49 years and have seven children and 18 grandchildren. The oldest is 19 and the youngest is a year and a half. So my life is very full and yeah, it’s been a beautiful journey.
I was raised in a home where there was a lot of fear, a lot of strife. My father was a World War II vet, actually was missing in action for several months, had a serious head injury, came out of the war, married my mom and they had 10 children. I was number five. I had eight brothers. Yeah, life was hard. My dad would have bouts of anger and there was violence in our house. Mainly it was perpetrated on my four older brothers. Workaholism really was my dad’s religion, wealth was all that he was after, but never really had success. With that said, he really struggled because of the mental health stuff. And I think when I really was able to completely forgive my dad was after I saw Saving Private Ryan because he was in some of those battles. I realized, wow, that whole generation of World War II men weren’t equipped to, they didn’t have the capacity to love because of what they’d seen, apart from Jesus.
I rebelled as a teenager. I hitchhiked, went to church on Sundays, I did things behind my parents back during the week, just all as a, okay, you’ve controlled me now I get to control you and you get to pay. I left home when I was 17. I met my husband shortly thereafter. I was living in Arizona at the time and moved up to the northwest to help an Aunt, and met my husband. He was in the military and used drugs and I was just a free spirit and really didn’t like drugs. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol really, which was miraculous. So we got married after nine months of knowing each other, and yeah, it’s a miracle. 49 years, that’s the first miracle, is that we’ve been married this long. It really is because without Jesus, we couldn’t do it.
A couple years after that, I came to know the Lord. I had a powerful encounter with Him, spoke in tongues immediately, couldn’t stop speaking in tongues, crying, just it was a very, very powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit and my husband was continuing on in his journey. I wanted to share it with him. Thank goodness the couple that was pastoring me at the time, was like, “You know what, just pray.” And one morning, I’ll never forget, my husband was getting ready to go to school and I was sitting watching him get ready and he said, “Wow, do you think If I came to know Jesus, I could still smoke pot?”
And I was like, “Well, you know what I really don’t know. But you could just try and see.” A few days later, he and his buddies went over to our pastor’s house and my husband received the Lord, got laid out in the Spirit, received the gift of tongues and was delivered completely from addiction. So it was an unbelievably powerful encounter. So that was cool.
We got baptized in a river in October of Halloween of 1975, we got baptized in a river. And it was powerful there again, just not feeling the cold water at all, just feeling the love of God. At the time, we were living in Alabama, and I got pregnant with my first child. God put it on my heart at that time just to lay my hands on my womb, and bless my womb with music. Neither my husband nor I can carry a tune and we don’t play instruments. As a result of that prayer, we’ve had four of our seven kids lead worship, all of them have played instruments at one time or another, just from laying hands on my womb and inviting the Lord just bless my womb with music, which it was totally the Holy Spirit.
After having four children, I was in my early 30s, and pregnant with my fifth and just really struggling with trying to be supermom, super martyr and that was a reflection of my Catholic background. That was what I was raised seeing as how a woman could prosper. So I worked really hard at being everything for everybody and really bumped up several times close to almost nervous breakdown. That whole dynamic of going to church in the morning, and being all upset and flustered with the kids and then appearing as someone else at church, and there was always something in me that saw more. Like, there’s got to be more. So when revival broke out, the beginnings of revival, I can remember we would take the family to these meetings where the Holy Spirit would show up and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Then the leaders of the church that we attended at the time went up to Toronto, where there was a huge outpouring in the mid 90s. And it was like nothing that I had ever experienced before. Seeing that just stirred in me just like wow, this is, this is it. There’s so much more here and then experiencing being laid out on the floor. I actually got the privilege of going to Toronto several times with a leadership team of the church that we wound up planting out of the church that we were in because of the Toronto revival. Just seeing things and experiencing things that yeah, were just crazy wild out of the box.
I remember being introduced to inner healing during that time and the Lord showing me that basically what happened when I became a believer, I laid it and built it on top of a faulty foundation. As the years went by, the more children I had, and as I got involved in ministry and participating in praying for others and stuff, the weight of what God was building on top of that, the foundation, just began to crack and split. He said, “I want to heal that foundation.” There were cracks. There were places of hurt and trauma in my life and unforgiveness and resentment and pain that were there, that were real, that I had just laid a carpet over the foundation and started building and thought that was what you did.
I have had several dialogues about Well Lord, why is that You just didn’t take all that away? And He said, “People hurt you and I want to use people to heal you.” There’s that interface of community that we all need that awakens the intimacy of the Father in us. It’s like, I’m not going to know the intimacy of the Father, without the fullness of connection with community around me, in my relationship with my husband, the transparency that happens with that, the vulnerability that happens with that.
I remember struggling to love my husband, and the Lord taking me in prayer, I’d say, “Lord, what can I do for my husband today?” and the Lord just saying, “I want you to love him.” And I said, but dah dah dah, dah, dah…. And He’d say, “No, I just want you to…” The next day would be the same thing. And the next day, and I finally was like, okay, and He gave me the phrase from John 15, Remain in My love. Every time I would go to open my mouth, to visit with my husband, I’d see this phrase, “remain in My love,” it was like a stop sign. And it was funny, because if I’d go to argue, I’d see that “remain in My Love,” and I’d start laughing, because it was just so ridiculous, that I would even have the thought I had, or was going to argue about something that wasn’t going to get me anywhere when it came to growing in my capacity to love my husband, to walk in forgiveness. Forgiveness has played a huge role.
I’m a student of forgiveness, and just as I was pastoring, I was associate pastor for a while and then became a senior pastor, when the senior leader had a heart attack. I pastored for three years at church and then I was an associate pastor, again, for a few years. Part of my journey, there was a whole lot of forgiveness that I needed to extend towards my dad and my brothers, my mom. I remember, I was actually making my bed one morning and still had a house full of kids —I was an associate pastor at the time. — and just this real hot, fire of anger coming up in me, and getting this picture of my dad and my brothers and just saying, “They can burn in hell. I’m not going to lead them to the Lord.” You know, for what they’ve done to my life and, and having had forgiven and walked that journey and knowing that I hadn’t forgiven.
There was still more to forgive and [I was] getting freedom from that and reading and teaching on Matthew 18:23, the verse about the King who forgave much, and the servant that didn’t, and realizing how you can come to salvation, and spend it on judging others or you can come to salvation and repent, truly repent and receive. In my journey, I realized I was holding myself still in unforgiveness. So it was blocking my capacity to forgive at the level that I needed to. You know, we love others, the way He loves us and the way we love ourselves. We forgive others, the way we forgive ourselves. Don’t you think it’s kind of fascinating that He says to us, “the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” And we can’t love Him without His love.
And I’m very much aware that most of us have been raised, our society really as a whole even, has bought into the concept that the only way I’m really going to change and make progress is through punishment. I think it comes from being punished as a kid as a healthy motivation. Whatever that punishment looks like, and fear has to do with punishment, it says that in 1 John, “and perfect love casts out fear.” I remember the Lord saying to me, you know, He says, “There’s parts of your heart that are prodigal.” There’s parts of your heart, when you do something wrong, there’s a part of your heart that will choose the pig slop, will choose punishment, shame, guilt. How many of us don’t want to go spend time with the Lord, when we’ve done something wrong and we think that is going to motivate us to change? When in truth, you and I both know, there is no change, true heart change, transformational change, where I’m a different person, apart from Jesus.
I know in my own life, forgiving myself oftentimes is a much bigger deal than forgiving somebody else. If I ask people, if I asked myself, “Have you forgiven yourself,” oftentimes they’ll say, yes. But under the light of Jesus, if I’m not able to forgive others, I have not forgiven myself. Because I love my neighbor, the way I love myself. I forgive my neighbor, the way I forgive myself. I forgive myself to the capacity that I’ve received God’s forgiveness. I think as I’ve gotten older, my focus has been on the vine and the branch much more. And I’m realizing the branch doesn’t give anything back to the Father. It just is so attached, that it receives and produces fruit. And that’s the gift, it’s the fruit. And, you know, at the end of the day, have I chosen love? He is love, that’s why I love. I’m attached to Him. He is forgiveness, so I’m forgiveness because I’m attached to Him. He is hope, so I’m hope and that’s what I produce. He is trust, that’s why I trust and His trust flows through me. He is everything and so much more. And there’s simplicity in knowing He’s the only thing that I need to focus on.