I Needed God's Help to Forgive

It was about eleven o’clock at night and the phone rang. We had just returned home from a trip to the Holyland – Israel. We were elated at having spent time in the area where Jesus lived His life, developed His disciples, and worked His ministry. For us, it was truly a life- changing experience. A well-wisher on the phone I thought, my son calling to welcome us home. But, it was not to be. My oldest daughter, in west Texas, was calling to inform me that my second daughter had been brutally murdered in her home. She had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt object later identified as a hammer. My daughter had been found in the front room of her home by my granddaughter. There was no apparent motive. My emotions were all over the place. I had spent a couple of years in combat and in my lifetime had seen my share of trauma, but not an unnatural death to a family member, and I never conceived a death in this manner. In typical macho-man style, I endured my feelings while my wife absorbed my emotional roller- coaster. A few days later, two men were apprehended driving my daughter’s stolen vehicle. They were both arrested and put in jail. My daughter’s husband, who works out-of-town, returned to town and was talking with police investigators and the assistant district attorney. My oldest daughter, who had informed me of the death, was also in contact with the police investigators. I, too, spoke with the investigators. The following week, we held a beautiful memorial service with my son presenting a profoundly spiritual and meaningful eulogy. I added a few comments at the end. After the memorial service I again contacted the district attorney’s office to determine the status of the investigation. It seemed to me that the investigation was moving painfully slow. The assistant district attorney informed me that it was a weak case. The only “witness” was “one criminal pointing his finger at another criminal.” Although both men had significant “rap sheets,” at this point, the case probably would not stand up in court. She related, during the investigation and subsequent arrests, that items were accumulated for DNA and other analysis and were sent to the police forensic laboratory in Austin. She was hoping the results would provide irrefutable proof as to who killed my daughter. Over a period of months, during the investigative process, I was growing more and more impatient. While I did not “get mad at God” I wondered about the pace of the investigative and legal process. I saw issues in other Texas towns moving with seemingly faster action, and harsher penalties for less severe crimes. But, on reflection, I was over-reacting which I imagine is typical is these situations. One starts to doubt the very people who are doing their best to help. The ones in whom we must continue to have belief. From the beginning, my thoughts were seldom far from the two suspects. I longed that they be taught “a lesson.” I visualized myself at a future trial, and even mentally prepared what I wanted to tell the judge and the jury – about the years that had been stolen from my daughter, her daughter, son, mother, and the void in our hearts that would last for a lifetime. I thought about the missed opportunities to tell my daughter how much I loved her. Frequently during the day, I thought about these things, sometimes wanting to scream out at my feelings of the injustice of it all. I didn’t want to burden my wife with my thoughts and so, for the most part, I kept them bottled up inside. Sometimes, I didn’t do a very good job and occasionally, all of a sudden, the dam would burst and my unpleasantness would come spilling out. “Why is it taking so long to accomplish the DNA tests.” “Why, oh why, did this happen?” “What can be done to strengthen the case?” “In the past, if I had only done this . . . or that . . . would the situation be different?” “Why is the case moving so slow? ” “Why, why, why,” I kept asking myself. Oh, yes, I prayed. I prayed frequently, by myself, with my wife, with my son. My lifegroup prayed and was a source of comfort and community. Academically, I knew what the bible said about forgiveness, but, I wasn’t doing a very good job at – “doing it.” Getting it from my head to my heart was the obstacle. This went on for months, and my mind was cluttered with non- productive thoughts. One day I became aware that I was rejecting the message that kept coming to me. These destructive thoughts were not doing me any good, mentally or physically. I had to get rid of them, but to do that meant that I had to forgive my daughters killer. I wasn’t sure I could do that, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help – I needed God’s help to lift this burden from me. For my very survival, I had to turn this over to God. You know, it’s a curious thing about “forgiveness.” Most everyone says they understand “forgiveness,” but when the need to forgive comes their way – either in the form of their being forgiven, or having to accept forgiveness, - or their having to forgive someone else; all too frequently, it seems to be a different story. The forgiveness message in the bible began to clarify in my mind, but I had to deliberate on it for a while – you know, to fully internalize it, and in so doing, the message became even clearer, - I had to forgive the man suspected of killing my daughter. I took more time and I prayed. I mean, really prayed, like maybe I hadn’t ever prayed before. Others continued to pray for me too. During my prayer-time, although he was over two hundred miles away, I forgave the man suspected of killing my daughter. I turned the whole issue over to God and asked Him to carry out His justice, in His time. It felt like almost instantly that the terrible burden I had carried around for months was lifted from me. By my forgiveness of him, the ill feelings I felt toward this man were gone. It was as simple as that. Our God is an awesome God. When we put our faith in Him, God’s grace becomes greater and more powerful than any problem we have. I thank God for what He is and for what He has done, and continues to do, in my life.