Have you ever gone through something so dark and painful, that you thought you would never make it? That things would never be ok again? Have you ever just been so overcome by sadness that you just didn’t know how to cope or function? I know that sounds kind of dramatic. But I can say that I have been in the place.
It began a couple summers ago, not long after we returned home from our vacation in Canada. It had been our first time back there since we moved to Honduras two years earlier and we all were struggling to re adjust to life back in Honduras. We had also been given terrible news before we came home that Dale’s mom had cancer and it didn’t look good. That left our hearts aching. Then suddenly one night two days after celebrating our daughter’s birthday, our precious and beloved dog Reuben, not even two years old died a violent death on our bathroom floor. We watched him struggle as the organs in his tiny body shut down while we prayed he’d pull through whatever was happening to him. Yet, it was not to be and he was gone within minutes.
Shock and Grief became my companion for a very long time. I guess the one good thing that came out of it was any weight that I gained in Canada just melted away and then an additional ten pounds. But for a very long time I felt like I was walking in a fog. I found it hard to cope or function. I wanted to know what happened? It was the one question I wanted to ask God when I got to heaven. What caused his death? I believe I know now what caused it, which I will explain soon. I know a lot of people might say he was just a dog…but for us he was more than that. Being new to Honduras when we got him, he brought a lot of normalcy to our family when everything was new and transition was hard. He brought a lot of joy and bonded us together. He was part of our family and we loved him.
Not so long ago, my next door neighbour told me to be careful with Abby our schnauzer. He has two schnauzers of his own and was informing me that the guy next to him “G” had put rat poison “everywhere.” Up and down the laneway, in front of the gates etc. It was then, in that moment that I knew. See, Reuben used to love to rip up and down the driveway playing catch with the ball getting his energy out. I had no idea there was anything there that could harm him. My next door neighbour is convinced that is what killed his first schnauzer when she was just a young pup. I was so thankful for the heads up and that I knew what to look for this time.
Recently Dale and I went to watch the Movie the Shack. I had wanted to see it because I had read the book many years ago and remember how it touched me, even though I didn’t remember it entirely. I cried throughout most of the movie. It’s a beautiful movie about forgiveness and redemption. It really caused me to think. Do I have unforgiveness in my heart? I didn’t think I did, but then in my devotions I came across this verse that brought me back to that time in my life as well as something more recent and I thought that yeah, perhaps I do harbour unforgiveness in my heart.
2 Corinthians 1:8b-10
We were crushed an overwhelmed, beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and he will continue to rescue us.
I haven’t thought of G in a while. He moved away, and I can honestly say I am thankful of that. I feel like I can breathe a little easier now because all of our new neighbours have schnauzers. In the four houses behind our gate there are 6 happy, yappy, schnauzers! A bit of a noisy welcoming committee, because when one of them starts to bark, they all start to join in the chorus.
The other thing I spoke about it, I actually hesitate to write about it for various reasons. It happened a while after losing Reuben and yet was another blow. It had to do with rumours that were supposedly going around about Dale and I and whether or not we belonged in Honduras. Our son told us what a lot of people were allegedly saying one night over dinner and it was devastating. We both felt wounded. Dale is a bit more like a duck and can brush things off and they don’t affect him. For me it was like the straw the broke the camels back. I had a harder time letting it go. I feel like I am just now getting to a place where I feel like in a way I have turned a corner and slowly making my way back, and forgiving even when there was never an apology.
Now with Easter approaching, I am thinking of the Cross. I am thinking of the price that Jesus paid. For our sin. For my sin. Willingly. And when people spoke out against him, lying about him …he said nothing in his defense, but instead he silently bore their verbal attacks and physical abuse. And I think…why can’t I be more like that? And I think how many times do I sin and fail the Lord on a daily basis and still he forgives. Forgiveness is a tough thing. It is a choice. But it’s a necessary choice. Even if the person doesn’t deserve it. For that matter, they may not even know they have caused harm. Unforgiveness. It’s the one thing that keeps us in chains, that keeps us from truly being free. Chained to the past. It will destroy us from the inside out. And maybe we may not even realize we have unforgiveness in our heart until something happens that brings it to our memory. Maybe we will need to forgive again and again and again. Every time it rises to the surface. Every time we remember. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget. It doesn’t make the wrong done ok, but it frees us . I know for me…I need to choose to forgive.
For if you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins….
Colossians 3:12, 13
Since, God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults and remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Just the other day I read this on a friend’s facebook page regarding a missionary in Syria. She was bringing aid to Christians living there. She met a mother and daughter who had just lost their husband/father and brother and sister. Isis had come to their house while the mother and daughter were not home. They brutally tortured and then beheaded the three family members that were home. The missionary responded with compassion and asked the mother how she was feeling. This Christian Syrian woman said, “I am embarrassed to say that it took me ten minutes to forgive them.
That has stayed with me since. I keep thinking how we can hold grudges over the most simple and petty things, that pale in comparison to what happened to this woman and yet she was so forgiving. Wow. I don’t know many who could so freely forgive after suffering such a huge tragedy.
In closing, I leave you with a quote from Lewis Smedes…”To forgive is to set the prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”