Can I Forgive?

We never know what the day may hold, do we?  

When I was 18 years old, getting ready to graduate from high school, anticipating my future life with excitement, a tragedy struck our family that changed all of us forever.  

Growing up, my family consisted of my parents, two older brothers by more than ten years, me, and my younger sister.  Our world often circled around my brother, who was closer to me in age.  He was a handsome, charming, yet troubled soul.  I don’t know why his life was so peppered with difficulty—sometimes, I don’t think we can ever know what triggers things like addiction.  Maybe it’s genetic, maybe a habit begun due to peer pressure.  At any rate, his addiction led him down a path of drugs, alcoholism, and jail time.  He was 27 when he was murdered in 1987.  

Both he and the woman who did it were intoxicated, and she ended up not serving any time for her deed.  The trial process was horrible—we live in a rural county with good ole boy attorneys who were second rate, in my opinion, so we really didn’t feel all that could be done WAS done.  It is an unjust society when someone can shoot another human being, point blank, with just a slap on the wrist.  

All these years later, I still think about that woman from time to time.  Finding her on social media is easy, and she seems to be doing as well as can be, and doesn’t live far from me.  I am sure living with the fact that you have ended another person’s life is something you never fully get beyond, but knowing she is enjoying her grandbabies and experiencing life, like my brother never will, just hurts.  

But many years ago, I decided to forgive her. How can I possibly do that?  I read scripture that said to pray for your enemies.  Not an easy task!  Surely, we wouldn’t be expected to forgive THIS!  But I was reminded by our pastor in his message recently that just because we ask Him to “forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” it doesn’t mean I’m going to break bread with them, or reach out to develop a relationship. That takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?  Not one more moment of thought in my life needs to have her in it.  

This entire season of our lives affected each of us in different ways, and I will never forget the pain and confusion of those years.  My parents lost a child and all their hopes and dreams for him; my brother, sister, and I lost a sibling; and a 6 year old child never really got to know and love his Dad.  But forgiveness, whether offered to an offender, or aimed at oneself, is crucial and had to happen for me on my quest of healing and grief.

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