Over the last year I have come to understand the concept of forgiveness. You see, my oldest son was shot in the face a year ago yesterday in a mugging. It was one of the hardest days of my life. Never have I been so scared and so full of faith all at the same time. I knew God has a plan for his life, so the call from his father that he thought he might be dead was shattering. Once I had it firmly in my mind that he had indeed been injured and life-flighted to a nearby hospital, the first thing I did was pray. I can’t remember my prayer exactly, but I know I declared God’s plan over my son’s life and that death would not steal that from him. My spirit was instantly calm and I knew that God’s plans would prevail no matter what the outcome may be.
My at-the-time 19 year old son initially refused to allow me to see him when he was in the emergency room. He was sure that half of his face was gone and he was in intense pain. The nurse convinced him that I would be strong and so they allowed me in, after laying a sheet over the side of his face where the wound was. I tell you nothing can rock your world like seeing your first-born laying in a hospital bed covered with blood and shaking from shock and pain. I was relieved to see that it was not nearly as bad as he was afraid it was, and he was obviously OK cognitively.
I held his hand and told him that he would look back later and see this as a turning point in his life, as a defining moment that would shape everything he did in the future. And I assured him that it would be a good thing in the long run. I think he probably thought I was crazy, but now he sees it that way as well.
He turns 21 soon, and it will be a celebration of a life that someone attempted to steal away. Needless to say, forgiveness is something that I have had to personally deal with in this situation. Sure, I’ve had breakdowns when I thought about someone holding a gun to my son’s handsome face and pulling the trigger. I’ve wondered what that other young man was thinking and what justification he had in his mind at that moment. But I have yet to harbor any unforgiveness in my heart about it. I am amazed at that too.
Do I want the perpetrator punished? Yes and no. Punished in the sense of discipline, yes. He obviously can’t go through his life thinking its ok to shoot people. Punishment in the sense of rehabilitation, yes. He obviously needs to learn a better way of dealing with life. But punishment in and of itself as retribution? No, I have no desire for that.
I can’t say there was a day that I put unforgiveness aside; I simply haven’t chosen to take it on. First I had to be strong for my son, and didn’t have the time or energy to allow myself to dwell on those matters while he was in the hospital. Then I started to see what those feelings were doing to his dad, and I made the choice to leave it alone. I refused to pick up that mantel of hatred and need for revenge. It can destroy a person just as much as a gun can. A much better way is to accept that even what Satan means for evil, God uses for good.
To me, unforgiveness means not trusting God in a situation just as much as it means that you want someone to pay for what they did. Vengeance belongs to God, not to us. IF He chooses to seek vengeance, then that is between Him and that person, it is of no consequence to us.
The really amazing thing is embracing the concept of God’s grace. He can forgive any and all acts, even the most atrocious of all acts that was committed against His Son…so who would I be to think that I could expect greater punishment for what someone did to mine?