All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Do we really forgive! Do we even want to?

Edna’s husband was a millionaire industrialist. He was wrongly convicted due to a sinister extortion plot. He went to prison, and appeals filed by the best attorneys were denied. Even though their marriage for the past 18 years was solid, Edna decided that her life had to move on. She filed for divorce. Danny lost his freedom. Then he lost the love of his life. He never fully recovered.

Divorce is not uncommon. When Daisy went to prison a corrections officer inquired as to when she was getting a divorce. She laughed, and asked what the heck that was all about. Her marriage was fine. One year later, sure enough, Bill filed for divorce. Life may be standing still for her, but it was going to move on for him.

Forgiveness is difficult.

Robin Sharma, one of the world’s top leadership experts, claims “Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it.”

I’ll not forget the day that I contacted the adult son of an elderly prisoner for help with some of his father’s business dealings. Old Eddie had been sent to prison after authorities found some disturbing images on his personal computer. “I don’t want my dad anymore,” his son Evan bitterly informed me. “Do you want him?”

I was chatting with Diana this week. She’s in her 80s now, and her son has been in prison for 18 years. Her heart is breaking, not because Lloyd is in prison, but because his two sibs won’t forgive. “One sister lives in the same town as the prison,” she lamented, “but she has never forgiven him, and never once visited him.”

I share these glimpses into the dark side of a prisoner’s life for a couple reasons.

First, it quickly explains why only 12% of Michigan prisoners get visits. Forgiveness is elusive.

And the second reason is to simply explain why HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is so popular among inmates. It’s because we don’t judge. We don’t care what they’re in for…we don’t even ask. If they have a need, a problem, we’re here for them.

It’s unconditional.

Jesus demands forgiveness of his followers, giving the prime example by asking his Father to forgive those who were putting him to death. In his model prayer for our use, he included the phrase, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It’s easy to mouth that phrase every time we recite the prayer. Not that easy when it comes time to forgive commission of an offense that is intensely personal and painful.

And yet…  

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and realize the prisoner was you.”
Lewis Smedes

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