Originally published Tuesday, 15 October 2013.
It was May 18, 2010––close to 10 years after my dad was murdered––when my husband, Travis, came home from work with a letter in his hand. “You’ve got a letter,” he said.
"Thanks," I said smiling as he handed it to me. I looked down to see a bold stamp on the backside of the envelope reading, "NORTHERN NEVADA CORRECTIONAL CENTER."
Looking up at Travis, I spoke in a faint whisper, “I gotta...I gotta go. Take care of the girls.” I ran upstairs and into my bedroom, closing and locking the door behind me. I didn't want my girls to see me like this.
I sat there, on my bed, for what seemed like hours simply holding the letter, tears pouring forth, willing myself to open it. Finally, the grace was given. I opened the letter and read.
If you feel led to visit me I’m OK with that. If the prison has a special format for a one time visit, I’ll sign the form. If not, and you have to get on a visitors list, let me know and I’ll submit the paperwork. Please know that no matter what happens I am truly sorry for what I did, most especially to your family. I wish I could take back that day, every day. Again, Let me know what needs to be done and I’ll do it.
I sat on my bed, reading these lines once, twice, perhaps more––it’s hard to recall.
There I was, holding a letter from him––the man who murdered my dad. I was holding paper he touched. I was seeing his handwriting. These were his thoughts written on the paper I held. The same hand that pulled the trigger that killed my dad wielded the pen that wrote this letter. The thought made my stomach turn.
I knew Jesus was calling me to love my enemy. But this is not what I signed up for. This is not how I thought it would go. This was not my plan. I didn't want this letter.
It brought me back to the darkest chapter of my life, and I really didn’t want to go there. Yet, I knew I needed to. I knew Jesus was leading me toward forgiveness and healing. So, I would follow––by the grace of God––no matter the cost.
After my emotions began to settle, I wrote in my prayer journal,
Thank you, my Lord, my God, for this trial - thank you for pointing me toward forgiveness - I know that this is from You - I know that it is Your will for me to forgive and to go through the process of forgiveness - help me through it. Lead me through it - let me follow You and Your will completely....
Help me to let go of my anger and bitterness. Heal me my Lord! Help me to find strength in You and to do this while holding Your mighty hand - Help me to have and act on great faith - to take that step out on the water with You in complete trust that it will be OK and that You will take care of me as Peter did! I know it is Your will for good to happen in my life...
Help me to love my enemy - show me what to do - do it through me! Please Lord help me to walk by Your Spirit and let You work in me and through me! ...
Bring Your light into my heart and let Your light banish all darkness from my soul! ...I choose you! ...I choose to forgive completely. I choose to love others including my enemies! Help me to be Christ centered - other centered - at all times.... Thank you, my Lord!
The things we're called to are never easy. This was just the beginning of my journey toward healing and wholeness, and even then––with my world turned upside-down, emotions raging within––I knew I could trust Jesus to lead me to where I needed to go. And so He did.
To read more about Laurie's redemptive journey, visit LaurieCoombs.org!