cruel harvestHaving grown up in a Pentecostal church that shunned formal liturgy, then spending my early adult years at a church where the pastor, a former Baptist, shied away from anything traditional, I didn’t recite the Lord’s Prayer much. Even now, I couldn’t say it from memory. The first few times I heard it I remember thinking, Where did they get the end?

The prayer taken from Matthew’s gospel doesn’t include the “For Thine is the kingdom and the power …” Someone told me it was a doxology found elsewhere in Scripture; one of Peter’s letters, I think.

I suppose it’s a nice way to end the prayer, but I think we’ve lost something but foregoing the rest of what Jesus says:

“‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” –Matthew 6:13-15 NIV

Fran Elizabeth Grubb, the author of a memoir I read recently called A Cruel Harvest, chose to have that verse (Matthew 6:15) engraved on her father’s headstone. She wasn’t there when her father was buried. With the help of her husband, she located the grave many years later and set the headstone there, as a symbol of her forgiveness of the alcoholic father who physically and sexually abused her and her siblings and who nearly killed her mother — several times.

There was nowhere left to hide but inside myself. I withdrew; each punch landed on a husk of a human. When he beat me really bad, or when I had to watch him hurt my sister, I tried to pull myself out of the scene.

Grubb’s memoir takes her readers back to the ’50s when she and her family worked in the fields as migrant laborers. They followed the harvests, so for most of her childhood, she never knew a home other than tents, trailers, and the occasional cabin. Her father kept his kids from attending school partly so they could work, but also to keep them, and their secrets, close by. Her best memories from childhood were actually at a girls’ home, when she went to school and was fed not just every day, but three times a day.

After a while, her urgings worked [those of her house mother], and I left a biscuit uneaten. It was hard, but I learned to trust that the food would be there at the next meal.

Grubb’s story is one of survival. Despite constant beatings and the sexual abuse, she is convinced God protected her and eventually rescued her. She writes from the perspective that time affords, but also with the guidance of her compassionate husband, who wanted her to be able to heal completely from the wounds of her childhood.

I appreciated Grubb’s honest telling of the abuse she learned to cope with, though I wish she’d offered maybe a little more commentary at the end. Her story ends somewhat abruptly. She also skips over the years of repercussions from an abusive past, offering a mere paragraph on how she ended up marrying a controlling alcoholic as well. She eventually divorced the man, the father of her two children, but couldn’t shake alcohol herself for many years.

Returning to Matthew 6:15 … Is God’s forgiveness conditional? Must I forgive those who’ve hurt me? It’s a question I’ll continue to wrestle with, but at face value, it seems irrefutable. Whatever the case, Grubb learned the freeing aspect of forgiving, something she says she was only able to through God’s strength. And something we can do too.

It was not my mind that forgave him but the power of the Lord working through me. I could never have done it through my own power. … my heart opened up, breaking free from the weight that burdened it.

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