Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't think there's power in forgiveness?

Forgiveness.  Doesn't the word itself just make you want to close out of this post right now?!  I guess it depends on how you look at forgiveness.  If you are the one being forgiven, then it's a beautiful word.  But if you are the one who needs to forgive, then the word forgiveness seems big and hard and daunting.  I don't usually tackle topics like this on my blog...I like to stick to talking about orphans and poverty and clean water and materialism and what Jesus says about them all.  But Jesus also talked a lot about forgiveness too and I imagine that the poor and the orphan struggle with this as well.  Proof offered below, thanks to the wonderful photography of Esther Havens.

Let me introduce you to David.  David lives in Uganda, an African nation torn apart by war.  For those of you who haven't heard of the LRA (The Lord's Resistance Army), let me give you a short education.  The LRA was started as a rebel army headed by an evil man named Joseph Kony.  The LRA killed, tortured, maimed, raped, and abducted large numbers of civilians. Most victims were children and young adults who were terrorized into virtual slavery as guards, concubines and soldiers. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape.

The smiling young man you see above was abducted by the LRA at the age of 12.  He was held captive for 5 years, being forced to commit atrocities against his fellow countrymen.  Upon returning to his village, he found his entire family had been killed by the LRA.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I KNOW that you and I cannot begin to imagine what even one day must have been like for him during his period of slavery to the LRA, much less five years.  And then to finally exit such a terrifying experience only to find the LRA had killed his entire family.

I can't say what David felt over the five years he was a child soldier or how he felt when he realized his whole family was dead.  I can imagine what I would have felt.  Guilt. Intense anger. Profound loss. Rage at the injustice of all of it. Unimaginable sorrow. Complete despair.  But look.  Look close at David's smile. It's not fake or forced.  His smile reeks of a person who's been set free.  Not just physically free, but emotionally and spiritually free as well.  Two things happened to David.  He learned the God loved him and he learned the freedom that comes in forgiveness.  Just read the chalkboard.

He forgave Joseph Kony.  The man whose forces abducted him and forced him to commit atrocities and killed his family.  David forgave him.

God has forgiven him.  I can't imagine the power this knowledge holds for David. 

He forgives himself.  Because of God's forgiveness towards him, David can forgive himself.

Is that not unbelievably powerful??  I can only imagine that David didn't want to forgive Joseph Kony.  If I were him I would have harbored nothing but anger toward him.  I'm sure that David's process of forgiving him must have been insanely difficult and seemingly impossible.  But he did. And he now lives in the beauty of that forgiveness.  He did the hard thing and it has set him free. 

How about you?  Are you living in the beauty of forgiveness today?