I thought about something I had read earlier, excerpts from a book called, Now You See Me... by Kathy Sanders. I don't know Kathy but I saw her many years ago on television. It was April 1995 and Kathy was unknowingly being filmed while she frantically searched for her two grandsons, Chase and Colton, hoping against hope that they had not died in the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma.
Their bodies were recovered and in that instant, Kathy's life was changed and so was that of her entire family. Her twenty-three year-old daughter had lost her two pre-schoolers. Her husband would lose his faith and then, two years later, he would die of pancreatic cancer - believing that the stress of losing Chase and Colton brought on his final illness.
Both Kathy and her husband were dissatisfied with the information that came out in court concerning the Oklahoma bombing. Both believed that the federal government didn't do a thorough investigation and failed to bring to justice everyone involved in the bombing. They wanted answers and would go to great lengths to get those answers.
Glen used the last two years of his life to search for the truth regarding the bombing. His search didn't give him peace, yield the answers he was looking for, or preserve his faith in God. Kathy went on to contact both Terry NIchols and Timothy McVeigh, the men who were convicted of the bombing. Timothy never responded to Kathy and never showed remorse before he was finally executed. Terry did, however, respond to Kathy and they eventually formed a friendship. She began contact with him and maintained it for two reasons: she wanted Terry to reveal information she felt he was hiding about the bombing. And she wanted to obey Scripture which says that we are to forgive our enemies, pray for those who hurt us, and do good to them.
She didn't get the information from Nichols that she wanted.
But in praying for him, forgiving him, and reaching out in love to his family members, she did find peace. Hope. And the will to live again.
Last night as I lay in the dark for over two hours, trying not to disturb my husband who had to go to work this morning, Kathy's story kept coming to mind, along with some verses.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding... Proverbs 3:5
I felt I understood Kathy Sanders' passion to ferret out the truth behind the malicious murder of her young grandsons. I also have a desire to analyze and to understand things that stress and/or hurt me.
Last night, however, the words of Proverbs 3:5 seemed to glow in the dark, almost as if they were dancing in front of my eyes...
Lean not on your own understanding...
The truth is that leaning on her own understanding and the understanding of others didn't bring Kathy peace; faith did. And the outworking of her faith required something that was humanly impossible: the forgiveness of the ones who blew up her little grandsons.
I heard a woman from Iraq, Takoosh Hosvespian, speak on this same subject two weeks ago. Her husband was killed 20 years ago, martyred for his faith, waylaid by men Takoosh knew, men who stabbed her husband, Haik, over 25 times in the chest. Their indefensible act left her a single mom in a hostile country trying to raise four children on next to nothing.
Takoosh wanted revenge for a long time. I can understand that also.
However, one day a Christian sister in the Lord gently confronted her with the words of Jesus - if you want to be like your Father in Heaven, you must forgive, you must pray for those who hurt you, you must bless your enemies.
Takoosh said she was torn between wanting to get even with the murderers of her husband and with wanting to obey her Savior. She wrestled for a bit and then chose to obey by saying prayers for her enemies but, as she put it, with her mouth only, not with her heart. For a long time, all she could do was mouth the prayers of forgiveness, of blessing, for the men who had left her a widow.
Over time, however, the words began to flow from her heart and, like Kathy, Takoosh found peace. Hope. And the will to live again.
As I lay in the dark last night, thinking about these things, it seemed to me that I could see refusal to forgive and and the subsequent bitterness stretching out like an onerous metal chain with huge links, shackling Christians who have been snared in the throes of an unforgiving heart -opening up a pathway to all things that are apart from God, to all things that are lifted up in opposition to God, to all things that are diabolically opposed to the peace of God.
I have read that bitterness opens us up to all things that are ugly.
Having experienced bitterness and an unforgiving heart myself, I believe it.
It's hard to forgive. Partly because it's painful to acknowledge how deeply we have been emotionally mauled by family, friends, enemies,ourselves, and/or even fellow Christians. If we don't acknowledge what really happened to us, we can't really forgive it. How can your forgive something that to one degree or another you deny?
To forgive takes time; vulnerability; honesty; raw, painful obedience; and above all, the power of God.
To withhold obedience and forgiveness - if allowed to go on long enough - eventually can rob us of everything good. Even our faith. It can open us up to spiritual deception and lead us into erroneous decisions of all kinds. It's a chain that can link us to atheism, agnosticism, or even a form of godliness that denies the power thereof. It can fog our understanding and cause us to unknowingly blaspheme God by our actions which may be at variance with our words.
Maybe this is why Jesus taught us to pray:
And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors... Matthew 6:12
Not because God is a softy on justice - He established governments for the purpose of administering justice on earth and He has promised complete justice in eternity future.
But because God doesn't want us to have a direct connect to all things that are apart from God, to all things that are lifted up in opposition to God, to all things that are diabolically opposed to the peace of God. Instead He wants us to trust Him and that type of trust is, apparently, at variance with our own understanding. We can lean on our own understanding, pin our hopes on justice, and eschew forgiveness... Or we can trust God.
Why does He ask us to forgive?
Because He wants us to live again... Truly.
|Chase and Colton Smith|
|Kathy Wilburn Sanders in 1995|
|Kathy Wilburn Sanders today|
|Pastor Haik Hosvespian|