Stories are never one sided. There are multiple perspectives to each story, and I believe it’s important to understand each perspective in order to gain greater understanding of the story itself.
A while back, I asked Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, if he would be interested in sharing his testimony on my blog, and he agreed. He told me in the letter including his testimony, “I chose to concentrate on our journey because, well, it’s been the most important event in my life since coming to Jesus.”
I would have to agree. Our journey toward forgiveness impacted me and my life in more ways than I can count. Second to coming to Christ, it was the single most defining moment of my life.
But enough about me. Here is Anthony’s story.
I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior on Father’s Day in 1996. Changes started happening. I stopped swearing, started reading the Bible, but I was still a carnal man, saved but selfish. It wasn’t until I received the “letter” that I knew I had to make some serious changes.
You see, my behavior had caused my wife to run to another man, and I had murdered that man. His name was Rick and I received a life sentence for killing him.
I was ten years into my sentence when I got the “letter.” It was from his daughter, Laurie, and she wanted to visit me. I was okay with it, but the prison turned her down. But God had a plan for us, and if it couldn’t happen in person, it would be through letters. What I was about to embark upon was an amazing two year journey on forgiveness.
Now at first, I was not a willing participant. I had committed this horribly selfish act ten years previously and really didn’t want to go back over it. I had it settled in my mind and was satisfied with my excuses. I had, up to this point, kept God’s light from shining into this area of my life. I knew going over this with his daughter was going to force me to be brutally honest with myself and her.
My flimsy excuses would no longer hold up.
But as we went on this journey, I found I didn’t need my excuses, God seemed to show up in each letter. Now, I’m not saying it was easy, forgiveness rarely is, but after two years, trust was built and forgiveness given. And when Laurie forgave me for murdering her father, I knew why the cross was so important. I finally and fully understood God’s forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice.
This journey also awakened in me a new hunger for God. It also gave me a voice. In prison, there are none but the guilty. And the guilt, as I well knew, is a heavy burden. Christ told us his burden is light and I found that what makes it light is forgiveness. It’s through forgiveness that we can have a relationship with God and others. As Laurie has said, forgiveness is messy, but it’s also life-altering.
I wanted to tell others. So, I began telling the men at our church. Laurie’s church (Living Stones) had made a video with her speaking about what her and I had gone through. We showed it in here several times. I spoke in front of a large mens group about forgiveness.
We all want forgiveness. We need it. It’s what makes life livable. But how often do we seek those out that need to forgive or need our forgiveness?
Christ said He came to give us a more abundant life. Well, there is no abundance without forgiveness. How can we love without forgiveness? How can we live a life for God without forgiveness?
I thank God for giving Laurie the courage to write that first letter to her father’s killer. Without that letter, I’d still be struggling. We need to reach out and forgive, as believers we must do it. It will be the most freeing thing you’ll ever do.
Any thoughts? Share in the comments.