I watched my former pastor’s daughter at her son’s funeral 24 years ago, and I wondered how she would ever be “normal” again. Her only son, a senior at UT, shot down by a 17-year-old who had bummed a ride from him. A beautiful life ended in a moment of evil. How would she ever smile again? What would she dream about?
Her story is remarkable, and a brief glimpse of it is in December’s issue of Good Housekeeping, page 174. She took a long time to lose her hatred of the young man who killed her son, but she did. She found forgiveness. She was able to forgive him. Not that he asked for it. She just gave it. In her words, she “started seeing him as a human being and not just a murderer.”
I read a piece somewhere once that went like this: A man saw a monster approaching through the mists, and he raised his gun to fire. But as he drew nearer, he saw that it was a man, not a monster, and lowered his gun. But then he thought, What kind of man would be out here in this mist, so he raised his gun again. But as he drew close enough that the mists no longer obscured the face, he saw that it was his brother, and lowered his gun to embrace him.
You get the idea behind it. I wonder how many people we have hated, or judged cruelly, because we saw them as monsters instead of as brothers? If we could just get closer… dispel the mists… perhaps we’d have more brothers than enemies.
Thomas Ann Hines stopped seeing a monster, and saw a boy. And forgave him. And in doing so, she grew immensely into the image of the One who taught us, “If you forgive men, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” The same One who looked down from a cross and said of those who put Him there, “Father, forgive them.”
Thanks to Thomas Ann, and others like her who have found the sweet release that only forgiveness can bring, we are challenged to let go of our grudges and end our quests for revenge. Their message is simple: Get close enough to your enemy, and you may find a friend. Your act of forgiveness will open heaven’s door for you. Lay down the gun. Open your arms. Forgiveness heals everyone.
Danny Carpenter, Grace Christian Family Center