Forgiveness is ______ part 3
Well I was a coward and had to send Martin in with the letter. I sat on the other side of the glass and watched. As Martin took a seat and they brought him out in an orange jump suit.
Martin delivered my letter to him and it seemed to take a while for him to read it. He kept stopping and wiping his eyes. Afterward he and Martin exchanged some words and I watched as he penned me a letter.
As I sit watching I wonder what’s exactly being said. I may never know all of it but they don’t seem to be angry. I guess that’s good.
I can’t imagine all the things Martin and he spoke of at the time. They talked, wrote and read for near an hour the whole while I watched. I saw his face not the twisted man from my nightmares, a softer face. He was wringing his hands and looked down a lot and I couldn’t read his lips through the angle and distortion of the glass. But I could see his face. He looks pale and fragile now.
During that hour I watched and chatted with my friend Pastor Dan on facebook and texted Sarah. TJ was finally sleeping he had a long night of worry over me, I don’t deserve such a man.
The time went by quickly even ran a little over the allocated time. Seemed just moments ago they sat down and now the hour is near done.
About an hour plus a few minutes went by before Martin emerged with a letter in his hands and he didn’t say much but I wanted to know what they talked about. So we sat in the waiting area and chatted briefly and he told me about their meeting.
Now I know what was said between them. Martin was telling him all his feelings on the matter of my forgiveness toward him. How he was lucky I forgave him because Martin wouldn’t have. How he better not think about hurting me after this or they’d (he and Martin) have words.
I wouldn’t want “those” kind of words with my 6 foot 8 inch 265 pound brother.
After he finished telling me of the discussion there was a moment of awkward silence.
Then he gave me the letter he received for me. I almost didn’t read it. I considered throwing it away. I didn’t really want to know. I didn’t want to see him as human. But I’m glad I read his letter after all.
Anyway below is a transcript of the letter he wrote me and gave to Martin to deliver:
As I sit here crying, I can’t help but think how lucky I am for your gift. I will never deserve your forgiveness but I promise to remember it all the days of my life. I promise I will try to earn this gift daily. I can’t take away what I’ve done to you, but please know if I could. I’d take your pain away forever and take it all on myself.
I know we’ll have no more communications and I will honor that as well. Should you ever wish to open that door to me I will humbly wait for that day. Please know there isn’t a day of my life I don’t regret my part in your suffering. Not because I’m in jail either, but because god will pass his judgment and my crime has no defense.
I’ve been a terrible person and I’ve worked to change that person. I don’t want to ever hurt anyone again. I am so sorry for what I’ve done and I’ll spend my days in restitution. I can never make this right for you and I’ve no words except thank you for your forgiveness.
Your gracious words and heartfelt letter will be my most cherished possession. It’ll remind me every day of the gift you’ve given me and of the promise I’ve made you to be a better person than I was. Should you decide there is anything I can do to repay this kindness you only need to ask it.
Thank you for forgiving me. May the lord Jesus Christ bless you and care for you all the days of your life.
(Name redacted for my privacy)
Now I’ve mixed feelings about his letter. It gives me more to think about what forgiveness is and what it means. I kind of knew I might have more to say on forgiveness once I saw it’s face like this. I’ve seen it in the eyes of one who desperately needed to hear it.
Pastor Dan here is what this man taught me today are you ready for it?
Forgiveness is “a gift”.
Yeah you’ve said it but there is nothing like seeing it in the eyes of another even from a distance. I could see in his face a relief. I saw not a monster from my dreams but a man humbled, with joyful tears. He wasn’t what I remembered at all. Even just six years ago when I last laid eyes on him I saw the monster I believed him to be.
Six years it’s been 2,191 days to be more exact since last I saw his face in person. He’s aged and softened and I almost didn’t believe he was the same man from six years ago. But I know it was he who sat just a few dozen feet away. I find myself wondering does he see a monster when he looks in the mirror to?
Does he see the scars of his sin? The scars he’s caused others? Does he cry when he sees his own face as I cry when I see mine. There is something about seeing our monsters in the flesh weak and human. I wasn’t prepared to see a human.
Yes forgiveness is a gift we give to another. I guess he taught me with his words that he sees it this way, a gift. A second chance at things he did wrong. Even though he knows judgment awaits him it seems my gift will bring him some peace. Perhaps not closure but a peace in knowledge that he has earned forgiveness in my eyes.
Not just by word and action but more. He is trying to change and seems sorry. He has shown me in his eyes and heart he has remorse. He earned it by asking honestly and demonstrating his desire for real forgiveness.
Yeah, yeah pastor Dan I know you think it isn’t earned. We differ here because I feel to be forgiven can be earned by a sincere desire to be forgiven and an attempt to make amends. He asked what can I do to be forgiven and he has honored my response. In my book he earned my forgiveness or perhaps he just proved to me his sincerity. He therefore earned my consideration on the matter.
Forgiveness is a gift of self to another. You go up to the chalkboard in heaven and cross off that something bad for them. Sure god can read it still but he sees the assignment as complete. He sees the intent of the crossing it off. He knows in your heart you’ve asked him to weigh your thoughts in his final judgment.
Does it still hurt? Sure it hurts still but in the end the hurt is different now. I’m not sure how to explain the transformative hurt other than yes it still hurts but differently.
I also learned it’s never too late to forgive. I’d like to say it’s like a weight lifted but it’s not. It feels more like a bath taken to me. Like I’m washing off layers of dirt! I don’t feel lighter, I feel cleaner.
It also feels like a war inside tearing at my nightmares and breaking down walls. Godzilla is lose in there right now and she’s wrecking the city again.
I just have to remember he’s earned by his asking what he must do for his own forgiveness. He’s also earned by his demonstration of repentance and sincerity the desire for his forgiveness. I’m confident he will not make me ever again relive that nightmare. I may even go to his parole hearing in nine years after he serves his time and advocate for his release.
There is one of the men I will keep there longer if I can. The did say 25 years before they can seek parole.
Because forgiveness is a gift I felt one more letter was required. You can find it below.
Dear (Name redacted)
Thank you for your letter, for honoring your word. I’ll be asking about you from time to time because I’m hoping you really make a difference. I wrote this on Tuesday before my brother delivered my letter to you and your letter to me. I meant these words then then and I mean them now.
“My job once the forgiving is done? Nothing because there is nothing left to do. I can finally close the book on this one and hope the sequel is a good one. Here is my dream for his sequel.
I hope he becomes a pastor and continues his prison ministries. God knows how much he is needed in prison to those who are hopeless. I hope he helps others with their GED because knowledge and education can change lives. I hope he brings god to those willing to hear his word. Maybe he will save a few lives and bring some forgiveness when it’s his turn to forgive. I hope he uses this second chance well. That is my dream for him and I pray it comes to life.”
I sat and watch you speak to my brother. I still fear men but I saw in your face the relief as you read my letter. I saw your tears of joy and your sincerity. I know now how much you deserved it and desired it. You want to make restitution then just keep doing what you’re doing. Make your restitution to god because I don’t need any. Your forgiveness close the book and this chapter between us.
I hope you take this gift and cherish it as you say you will. Maybe this gift can remind you to give gods gift to others every day. That would be great indeed knowing this evil has been beaten with kindness and forgiveness.
I’ve dedicated much time and energy to helping victims. Maybe if we tag team from both sides we can end the cycle of abuse. God in the prisons and god for the victims, what a plan indeed. I see tragedy and two lives destroyed turned to a greater good both my life and yours.
I do hope god can take the evil and make it to his will. I’m hopeful your sequel book will stand in contrast to the prelude.
Remember when god passes his judgment I will be your defense. My forgiveness and I hope it lightens his anger. I hope that with all my heart.
God bless and I’ll be watching, hoping and praying,
This is the letter I mailed today. The prison will not give him my envelope and I didn’t put a return address but he will get my letter. I still have mixed feelings about all this but for the most part I have done the right thing. He asked for forgiveness and what he needed to do to earn it. He knows he can never really earn it and it was given as a gift. So I gave the gift and a prayer as well toward a better future.
I truly believe this is two lives ruined. Both by his hands but still ruined none the less. In the end of ruin comes salvation or death. This tale has two endings is salvation. How many of the remaining four will end in death and destruction?
So next time I am given forgiveness I think I need to remember what a gift I’ve been given. Maybe seeing forgiveness through the eyes of others helps. Maybe seeing the pain in his eyes helped. Maybe seeing his tortured soul helped. I don’t really know but I can tell you I saw his joy, relief and thanks. I hope forgiveness brings me this and more when next I’m in need of receiving.
~Michelle Styles – February 7, 2014