“He’s doing it again,” I told my friend, Sarah, “listen to this!” I read the letter I received that afternoon from Anthony. We had been writing back and forth for quite a while at this point, working through the circumstance behind my dad's murder.
“Why won’t he simply say ‘I did it. It was my fault. Period.’” I said. “He’s still trying to justify his actions! He committed murder! He killed my dad! There’s no justification for that!”
After talking it though, I sat down and began to type my response, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I wanted to rebuke him. Set him straight. He claimed to be a Christian now. Why isn’t he repentant? Why does he keep blame shifting? I thought.
I wrote, words pouring forth like flood waters out of my heart, addressing each of the issues and backing them with scripture. Oh, this is good, I thought, but I knew.
This was not the response God wanted.
I prayed, as I awaited direction from Jesus. Days passed and turned to weeks, and finally, the answer came.
It was true. Anthony was far from where I wanted him to be. But, it was at this moment I felt Jesus speak to my soul. Leave Anthony to me. Now forgive. And honestly, the crazy thing is that I was given grace to forgive. In this moment. In the midst of my anger.
I sat down to revise my letter to Anthony, and at the end of it, I wrote,
…despite the fact that we will probably never see eye to eye in all areas, I do forgive you…. I hope this finds you well, and I pray that God heals you from your past as He is doing for me. I pray that you learn to live your life for God wherever He has you, and that you’re able to find peace in this life.
Forgiveness set me free. I was free of the anger, the bitterness, and the pain that held me captive for over a decade.
What’s more is that after I extended grace, I witnessed a transformation that was almost palpable in Anthony, as Jesus brought him to a place of repentance and healing.
I was called to forgive. To love my enemy. To give Jesus unhindered access to the pain and bitterness which took residence in the deepest recess of my soul. Out of this––following Jesus into my unknown, scary places––I witnessed the redemption and grace of our mighty God.
We serve an amazing God.
A God who gives us grace to do the impossible.
A God who redeems.
And I encourage you today to place Christ at the center of your most broken relationship and extend the grace that was freely given to you.
…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the blessings associated with following Jesus. Her story will be featured in Billy Graham's new film, "Heaven," (November 2014) part of the "My Hope with Billy Graham" series broadcast nationally in an effort to reach people with the message of the gospel. She is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com and is currently working on first book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: Ajourney of forgiveness (Kregel Publications, Spring 2015). Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Reno, Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery.