Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Does Forgiveness Mean Lack of Control?

I heard a story recently about a woman named Charlotte. At the age of 6, her parents followed their cultural norm and pre-arranged her marriage. By age 19 the date was set. A week before her big day, everything was set to go. Charlotte had her dress picked out, the bridesmaids were all flown in, and both the stag and stagette parties were had. The only preparation left were the wedding rehearsals. This would be the first time Charlotte would meet her husband, Dennis.

Her first impression of Dennis was quite pleasing. He seems like decent guy. Holding down a job as an engineer in the petroleum business, Charlotte feels at ease knowing that money will be a less likely concern. Watching Dennis mix and mingle around the room Charlotte notices his people skills are top notch. She imagines her and her husband greeting guests into their home at one of their many dinner parties as part of their married life together. As the two sit down at the dinner table they hold hands for the first time. Charlotte eagerly kisses Dennis on the cheek in front of those at the rehearsal. Dennis accepts the kiss with a smile on his face and a twinkle in the eye. She rests that night knowing things will be alright; that she can trust this man whom she just met to love and cherish her all of her days.

It’s now 11:45PM. Dennis and Charlotte have confessed their love for each other sited their vows, and been blessed by a priest in front of 250 friends and family in attendance at the wedding; and are now in the back of a Lincoln town car en route to their hotel for the night. As soon as the two were alone Charlotte was caught by surprise when Dennis raped her before the day had ended. Sadly, this was just the beginning of 10 years of abuse for Charlotte. Daily the beatings would continue. When Charlotte appealed to family for help, Dennis would turn the argument back on to her. Calling her mentally unstable, Dennis would manipulate Charlotte’s parents to make them think she needed psychiatric treatment. Then one day Charlotte found refuge in an unlikely hero.

One day Dennis decided to beat Charlotte after their three children went to bed. Their eldest son Mason had grown accustomed to hearing his parents shout and fight as they tried to sleep. But this time was different. Mason’s third grade teacher Mrs. Swanson had a special visitor do a presentation to her class during Safety Week at school. Mrs. Swanson brought in Constable Hudson from the local police department to teach the children all about how the police keep people safe. During his presentation, Constable Hudson told them about 911. Mason and his classmates learned about the people who work at 911 and how they are trained to help people in trouble. Hearing his mom crying, Mason used the phone in his parents room to call 911. When 911 answered, Mason listened to the gentleman on the phone as he told him how to keep his brother and sister safe and that help was on the way. The police showed up minutes later and took Dennis away to jail.

Charlotte saw this time as a chance for freedom and sought new life on a different continent with her three children. Now a quartet of Christians, Charlotte and her family enjoy life on the Canadian prairies. Still in touch with her family back home, Charlotte learns that Dennis’ life hangs in the balance as he suffers a coma during a riot in prison. While praying for his safety, she is led to scriptures that speak of forgiveness. Confused, she ignores the scriptures and continues to pray for Dennis’ life. Soon it becomes abundantly clear of God’s asking Charlotte to forgive Dennis of all the abuse he’s given her during their marriage. Charlotte decides on forgiving her husband and makes plans to visit her homeland.

During a vacation back home, she visits Dennis in the hospital. When the two are alone, she contemplates pulling the plug and taking Dennis’ life in return for her years of abuse. Then she quickly remembers why she came – to forgive Dennis for all the abuse Charlotte incurred over the years. In between the beeping and hissing of the machines that keep Dennis alive, Charlotte talks to Dennis for nearly 45 minutes about all the pain and the hurt he is responsible for. Before the conversation ends, Charlotte is able to utter words of forgiveness.

As she leaves the hospital a new sense of freedom encompasses her. Now she can let go of the past and focus on the future without fearing the abusive Dennis will find her, her children and abuse them again. The five years since charlotte and the kids left, charlotte was living in fear that Dennis would go looking for them with nothing but vengeance on his mind. Even though they were continents apart, Charlotte’s fear of Dennis controlled her. But because she was able to forgive Dennis from 10 years of abuse Charlotte no longer has to cower in fear or frantically look over her shoulder at men who even look like Dennis. Because of forgiveness Charlotte is now free from any grip Dennis still had on her and her children five years after the fact.

Maybe this is one reason why God asks us to practice forgiveness. Without it, our abusers – those who have done wrong to us – have some element of control in our lives for years and even decades after the incidences. By forgiving our abusers we release them of that control and we walk in freedom in more was then one. Not only are we free of any reoccurrences, but we no longer walk in fear. Cowering at the mere site of our abuser is not a posture we need to assume because it is gone and perhaps long forgotten. The only action we have from the point of forgiveness is rebuilding the bridge that was once burned. Rebuilding that bridge isn’t always mandatory, but it is an option one could take. I believe God will honor whatever action we take regarding that burned bridge. If we choose to rebuild it and make amends, the Lord will help us. If we choose otherwise, God will respect our decision and continue to direct those involved down different paths.


1 comment:

  1. Forgiveness isn't always easy, but neither is being a Christian.

    amazing how true love can go so horribly wrong, but thank the Lord, her son was able to help them get out.

    {HUGS} for spreading the word -