Stories about forgiveness in the media draw my interest. I can’t help reading them, and finding encouragement in the ways people manage to forgive others. The stories that hit the news garner attention because they so often surprise us – how could someone forgive a murderer, for instance? Read on…
I learned when writing The Living Cross: Exploring God’s Gift of Forgiveness and New Life that those offering forgiveness in extreme situations were often exercising a familiar muscle. They extended forgiveness in daily life over the seemingly small things we have to forgive daily – when a driver cuts us off in traffic, or when someone close to us betrays us, or when a family member puts their needs before ours. In forgiving someone who had done a great wrong to them, they were continuing to live in the manner in which they’d been accustomed. Many also cited a supernatural infusion of grace that they attributed to God.
Below are two news stories of forgiveness for your encouragement. I pray you’ll never need to forgive on the scale that would attract this kind of attention. But we can take encouragement to forgive in the more mundane situations of life. And of course, to ask forgiveness when we do wrong – I sent out an email along those lines this very morning!
Adam Miller was caught up in a shooting at a lawnmover plant in Kansas in February 2016. He was shot four times at close range, but amazingly, the bullets only hit soft flesh. He said, “I had an obvious hand of protection when it was going toward my chest. I don’t know how to describe it other than that.”
When lying in his hospital bed, recovering, he thought about what had happened, and the perpetrator.
“I can’t say that I immediately forgave him. Maybe it came a couple of days later,” he said. “There was no hatred toward him. There was sorrow, and he must have been in so much pain.
“I just come to the conclusion that for all the things I’ve done in my life, God has forgiven me. So why can’t I forgive someone else?”
You can read the full story here.
Cliff and Wilma Derksen’s daughter was killed on a cold night in Winnipeg. Thirty-two years passed before the man accused of her murder would be brought to trial again – had they waited for justice to forgive, they would have lost years of their lives to waiting and perhaps the prison of bitterness.
One night after their daughter had been missing for several months, a man came to visit them. He introduced himself, saying, “I’m the parent of a murdered child, too. I’ve come to tell you what to expect.”
He shared with them all of the things he’d lost to his daughter’s murder – not only her but his relationships, work, and even his daughter’s memory. He told the Derksens, “It will destroy you.”
They saw how a darkness could swallow them, taking away all that they loved and treasured. After the man left, “We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We have to stop this,’” Cliff said. “We have to forgive.”
They both made a decision that night to forgive, with Cliff saying, “I don’t believe the person who did this had loving parents or a circle of friends who thought the world of him or he wouldn’t have done a deed like this.” Wilma added, “I can’t say at this point I forgive the person But we have all done something dreadful in our lives or we have the urge to.”
When people in the public heard what they said, many were angry. Some thought they didn’t care for their daughter, and others questioned what it meant to forgive.
Cliff said, “We said we were going to forgive and we didn’t know how to talk about it, and we really didn’t know what it meant ourselves. Our big thing was just we were going to forgive whoever it was. We just were going to forgive. We didn’t know how or where or when this was going to happen, it was sort of a north star we put out there.”
“There was an article three or four months later saying 80 per cent of Canadians didn’t agree with us and would be upset with us because forgiveness meant letting the murderer go free and condoning murder,” Wilma said 32 years later. “That wasn’t what this was about at all. It really was about escaping the aftermath of murder.”
Read more at the extensive article here.
Did these stories resonate with you? Could you extend forgiveness today?