I’ll never forget those dark eyes, never. If I close my eyes now, 17 years later, I can still see them. I can still see the spacing of his lashes and prominent pupils due to the shadowy-dim light. His girth suffocated me as my face was pushed into the all-weather carpet, burning its roughness onto the left side of my face. Without a thought of possible repercussion, I mustered all I had within me and let out a blood-curdling scream for help, except my body betrayed me and no sound came from my lips. I felt my vocal cords constrict, and my mouth open, but no sound escaped. I tried again, telling myself that it was my fear choking me and that if I could just relax, then my voice would work. It didn’t. The silence was deafening; literally piercing my ears. Silence from him. Silence from me. And still, sometimes, the quiet can become too much for me. I remember thinking that this six-foot-four, 275-pound African-American man would give up after trying for what seemed an eternity to destroy me, but he didn’t. My thoughts quickly changed to wishing he would just hurry. I have no comprehension to this day how long the physical attack lasted. I only know I allowed the emotional portion to affect me a good share of the years since.
I felt like a rag doll; limp, lifeless and hopeless when I was finally left all alone in the dark. I didn’t cry—not right away. I picked myself up, cleaned up the best I could, and then I cried. And cried. And still to this day, I cry.
I cry for me. I cry for him. What has to happen in a person’s life to bring them to such a place to commit such violence without regard for another human being?
Weaving in and out of various parts of the story in an attempt to focus on where I am standing now, this week’s theme, I skip ahead nine months to share that with my husband of now 23 years by my side, I gave birth to a beautiful reminder of God’s Sovereignty, a bi-racial baby girl that resulted from that traumatic night; and a few years later found myself part of Pacific Northwest’s Speakers Bureau for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, focusing on both educating the public and fundraising. (I am incredibly, incredibly passionate about the issue of pro-life! Incredibly!).
At one such speaking engagement at Beasley Coliseum at WSU, I was teamed up with an African-American man. We had never met before and to be honest, I do not remember what he even spoke about. However, after the event was over, he approached me, pulling me aside, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “I want to ask you for forgiveness for my “brother”. Will you forgive him?” I was completely caught off guard and the strength that I had been mustering up all day betrayed me and I fell at his knees and sobbed like the little girl I so desperately had been trying to hide for a very long time.
I don’t remember my co-speaker’s name, but I have never, never forgotten his words. I have pondered them in every possible way; I’ve turned them over, upside down and back again. I’ve mulled them over, looked for a hidden agenda, trying to believe there was something there I wasn’t seeing. Friends, there wasn’t. His words, however, were not his own. He was merely the messenger because they were the words of Christ, “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
17 years later, I, too, stand too as a messenger. Over and over again, I find myself standing in the expanding space between injustice and forgiveness, loving the unlovable, forgiving those who have wronged; those who have crudely dismissed the beauty and value of one’s life and forever altering others in seemingly unforgivable ways. Standing in this place of Hope happened to me. I wish I could say I have this amazingly loving heart and I sought out ways to show love to the unlovable, but I didn’t.
Somehow in the midst of my seething hatred, wishing ill-will of my attacker so much so that I have literally made myself physically sick and praying for vengeance, God filled me with compassion, broke my heart for what breaks His and allowed me to surrender all those warranted thoughts to Him and rely on His strength and leading in my life. I trust—I absolutely have to—that God will deal with each injustice in a far better way than I ever could. Injustice is something I cannot comprehend no matter how hard I stretch my imagination or try to put myself in an offender’s shoes. It’s ugly and it robs us of our security, dignity, and innocence while often jostling our faith in both humanity and God. Turning a blind eye to injustice is an injustice in itself!
I refuse to turn a blind eye to it—I run toward it now. I write to prisoners, through the Prisoners for Christ organization, study the Bible alongside them, write notes of encouragement, direction and prayers over them. When I mail my letters, it is only the beginning because I vow to continue to pray over each prisoner. I have no idea if the words I write are meaningful to them or are life-changing, but I do know I am showing them Jesus the best way I know how. I stand with my arms outstretched toward heaven in humble thanksgiving for the forgiveness that I have been graced with and desire with all my heart to share that freedom with those held captive (physically and emotionally) by their own unforgiveness and sin. I stand as messenger.