Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Forgiveness and Amish Grace
Do you ever wonder why it is that some people suffer so much pain in this life, while others it seems, breeze through life with scarcely a tear? I do. I wonder why God allows some to experience so much heart ache. I don't have the answers, but I do know that God is always good. Always. I see that although His children must suffer, He meets them there in their suffering, giving them a measure of His own heart. An other-worldliness that allows them not only to survive, but to grow in a deeper way, more like a little child, I suppose, dependent upon and trusting their heavenly Father.
I recently read a book entitled Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher. It is truly the most inspiring and spiritually edifying book I have read in a very long time. It explores forgiveness in general and more specifically the grace that the Amish community extended after the Nickel Mines school shooting in 2006.
It only spends a short time on the actual incident, and hardly any time at all on the dark mind of the killer, which is good, because I don't like to read stuff like that at all. But rather, it tells a story of how deep rooted faith, built up over generations and lived out on a daily basis, allowed a people to collectively reach out in the midst of horrific circumstances and live by the words of Christ. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them which hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." Matthew 5:44
Many of the Amish people quoted in this book spoke of Jesus' words after the Lord's prayer, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 5:14-15
It made me think a lot about how forgiveness is really the crux of Christianity. Of course, the receiving of it through Christ's work on the cross, but also the giving of it. It made me think about how in order to have "the peace that passes all understanding" in our hearts, we must from the heart forgive all men. Our own fellowship with God depends on it. In order to move forward in our walk with the Lord, we must forgive.
I know that life can offer some unutterable pain. Heart ache and brokenness, too stark, too raw to even rightly speak of. Sometimes only God ever knows of these hurts inside us. But as His children, in the midst of our pain we cry out to Him, asking that He would comfort us and bind up our broken hearts, lest we fall apart and He does. He is always enough. He is true and faithful to every precious promise in His word.
But He wants to take us one step farther. To forgiveness. Because forgiveness is beautiful and freeing and empowering. To quote the authors of this book, "Forgiveness releases you from being a victim and makes you the hero in the story that you tell." But really, it makes Jesus the hero in the story that we tell.
Another one of the great paradoxes of Christianity. By dying to ourselves, by giving up what is rightfully ours (anger, resentment, revenge, even "happiness" sometimes), we find life and peace. An idea that is so counter cultural. Especially in our world that teaches us to live for ourselves, get what we deserve, and above all to look out for number one. Sadly, the characteristics of service and self sacrifice are almost looked down on by many people today.
But can true, complete forgiveness be found in any human heart? If my own heart is any indication then I think not. I think it is an attribute of God, that flows from His heart through His children when through pain they cling to Him.
It has been said that kindness makes beautiful the one who possesses it, as does truthfulness. I would like to say that forgiveness makes beautiful as well. Without truth we cannot acknowledge that there is a wrong to be forgiven, and with kindness and compassion we say in our heart, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
It is forgiveness that allows one to get up and walk away from soul wrenching heartbreak, with grace and dignity. Because truly forgiveness transcends tragedy.