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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.--Matthew 18:21, 22

Jim Green didn't think twice when his neighbor--a slight acquaintance--said he needed to talk with him on that February morning in 2002. Since it was chilly outside, Jim invited Tom into his apartment. After some small talk, Tom pulled out a knife and snipped Jim's phone cord, then threw Jim up against the wall, told him God wanted Jim to die that day, and began cutting him.

Well, God didn't want Jim to die that day, and He proved it with several miracles that ended up saving his life. I had heard the story before--in fact, I was one of the many who prayed for Jim when he was in a medically-induced coma after the brutal slashing. But I revisited the story today when I interviewed Jim about the fact that he will be featured April 7th on a Biography channel TV show called "I Survived."

This post isn't a sermon about how we should forgive. Actually, not even a reminder of it. It's more of an observation of awe and wonder about how people are ABLE to forgive after undergoing unspeakable cruelty and wrongdoing against them.

Just as Jim didn't have to think twice about inviting his neighbor in, he didn't think twice about forgiving him. In fact, Jim didn't want to use Tom's last name in our interview, out of sensitivity to Tom's family who still live in the area. Tom is still serving a 25-year prison sentence, and he claims to have accepted Christ while in prison. After reading several poems written by Tom, Jim believes him.

Can you believe Jim doesn't even have trouble opening his door to strangers? He didn't suffer any post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of his brutal stabbing. Another miracle.

My interview with Jim comes on the heels of my recently reading Lisa Samson's latest novel, Embrace Me. The rather quirky but enormously readable book deals extensively with the issue of forgiveness.

Not long after reading it, I happened upon one of those TV biography shows featuring the outspoken and abrasive (read "loudmouthed") supermodel, Janice Dickinson.

Janice talked about her relationship with her horribly abuse father. Although Janice is not the kind of person I would admire or even have an affinity with, I was truly touched to see her emotions--the still-raw pain-- when she spoke about the years of abuse. Obviously, her father's mistreatment of her and her sister has had an enormous impact on her life choices--many of them very bad and harmful choices.

Her sister, who was even more extensively molested and abused, was able to forgive. Janice wasn't, and she freely admits this. When her father died, she said, "See you in the next life. You've made this one miserable for me." Her last words to him were, "Die, ____________ (a very strong obscenity.)"

I couldn't help but think of my own mother, who was abused by her father when she was very young. My grandfather died after living in my parents' home for a couple of years. My mom nursed him and ministered to him in his final illness. Her ability to not only forgive, but to actively care for my grandfather, was a startlingly clear picture to me of what the word "grace" is all about.

Could I do that? Could I forgive like Jim Green, like my mother? I don't honestly know.

But I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately.

--Cindy Swanson

Visit Cindy's personal blog:


Blogger Jennifer said...

Wow! That really mad me think. I can't imagine going through what Jim did and not holding a grudge or ever opening my front door again. God's grace is sufficient.

April 2, 2008 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

That was a beautiful article. I have been blessed to witness that kind of forgiveness in a special way with someone very close to my heart when I was much younger. It had a profound impact on me when it came time for me to forgive.


April 2, 2008 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Kelly @ Love Well said...

Beautiful, honest article, Cindy. I know you're not commanding us to forgive -- but God is. It's that simple.

I've been though my own horror story, and when God gently reminded me that I was required to forgive what had been done to me -- not excuse it, not say it's OK, but release the person's wrongs to let God handle it -- well, it was one of the hardest things I've ever faced in my life. But I discovered Him in a way I had never known Him before in that act. It's opened up wellsprings of grace and mercy in my heart. And Satan's barbs of bitterness and resentment and anger did not take hold.

Excuse me while I do a little victory dance.

Forgiveness is nothing short of freedom.

April 2, 2008 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Awesome sweetie, thank you.

April 2, 2008 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger windycindy said...

The only thing I think about is that unforgiveness and hatred only hurt me not the people that I don't forgive or don't like. Cindi

April 2, 2008 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What a powerful story!

April 2, 2008 at 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always find myself in awe of those amazing stories of forgiveness during times of tragedy. I think when we witness that level of forgiveness, we witness people being as close to "Jesus-like" as is possible for us earth-bound humans to be. Beautiful, Cindy. I needed to be reminded about forgiveness today. How'd you know?

April 2, 2008 at 9:32 PM  

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