On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness
Somehow, and I don't quite know how, my daughter helped me to forgive Richard.
Somehow, and I don’t quite know how, my daughter helped me to forgive Richard.

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22 CEB

Twenty-five years ago, I got a call on a Saturday morning that had me racing out the door within seconds. My sister had been beaten by her husband. As I drove at breakneck speed between our homes my heart, like the Grinch’s heart, constricted as I thought about that man!

My sister’s now ex-husband Richard had chipped her ribs and bruised her body when he came in from a drunken all nighter.

I have not forgotten. I also did not forgive him for two decades.

In those two decades I spoke ill of him at every opportunity. My stomach became a knot when his name came up. My face turned red and I could feel the anger rise in me when I remembered.

It wasn’t until my daughter, my beloved ginger haired baby girl began a writing project about Richard and his role and relationships within our family that my heart was finally released from its grinch-like prison.

My daughter Jessica barely remembered Richard but traveled to Wisconsin to see him. She later spoke and wrote about a deeply wounded but good man who was suffering the consequences of many bad life choices.

Somehow, and I don’t quite know how, my daughter helped me to forgive Richard. Somehow I released my anger and my constricted heart grew.

I did not and have not forgotten.

But in the releasing of my anger and hatred for him, I discovered some of the royalty within not only myself but in him. I glimpsed the image of God which we both share as human beings.

___

Related

The Telephone Call May 17, 2012

Reflecting on Grand Jury Duty

I spent twelve hours yesterday at the courthouse serving as a Grand Juror. Our charge was to hear from prosecutors and witnesses to determine if enough evidence existed for an indictment. We did not determine guilt or innocence. That comes at the trials. We heard evidence in close to forty cases. By the third one, I turned to my fellow juror and said, “It looks like it’s going to be a depressing day.” After the fourth, he turned to me and said, “It’s not getting any better.” We heard cases from a slice of our society in which criminal acts of all kinds (drugs, passing bad checks, domestic violence, abuse of children, and worse) seem to be common.

As someone studying for the Christian ministry, I repeatedly reminded myself that each and every one of these individuals were made in the image of God. I had to do this or I would lose sight that we were hearing about real people. This was not an episode of CSI. These were my neighbors in my own city and county. These were my neighbors, many of whom will be found guilty of crimes, who have not heard the Good News of a God who loves them. Occasionally, I found myself fighting back tears–God’s tears–when I heard stories of people so wounded that they chose to do horrendous things or were the victims of horrendous things.
As a citizen, I felt good yesterday to be able to do my civic duty. Our police and our justice system is doing what it can to protect all of us. The women and men in law enforcement and in the legal and court system make it possible for each of us to reap the benefits of civilized society but they are fighting a losing battle.
They are fighting a losing battle because as Christians we are ignoring the wounded in our midst. We treat our neighbors within our communities as throw-away people. As church we argue over the color of carpeting forgetting that our work is outside of the church building. In the end, God is less concerned about whether our carpet is a little frayed than about what we have done for others in our community. What are we as Church going to do to dismantle the economic and social systems that wound our sisters and brothers? What actions are we going to take to bring a piece of God’s Kingdom and Kin_dom to the wounded neighbor in our midst?