What or who has Shaped your life ? I’m sure that, like me, you will be able to name someone or something that so profoundly influenced you that your thinking or your lifestyle changed.
i remember the Enniskillen bombing, by the IRA, of a Remembrance Sunday parade in 1987. Most of my generation or older will recall the story of Gordon Wilson holding his daughter’s hand as they lay beneath the rubble of the explosion that would kill her and others.
It was only a few hours after the bombing that Gordon Wilson declared he forgave the terrorists, pray for them and asked that no one should seek revenge. “That”, he said, “will not bring her back.”
Apparently after the interview he and his wife, Jean, received many letters of support but also letters from folk who couldn’t understand his thinking and he even received letters condemning him for following the instruction of Jesus, (Matthew 18:21-22) of whom he was a dedicated follower. As a result, though, many Protestants and Catholic’s reached out to each other, avoiding bitterness and hatred Not only in Enniskillen but across the country. Even though the loss of his daughter, Marie, broke the lives of Gordon and Jean Wilson I’m reminded that it didn’t break their resolve to forgive.
i remember this vividly, as a young father of two girls (aged under 2 and under 1 years) thinking “how can he do that ?” At this point I’d been preaching several years, I’d led at least one mission in a different Church and yet I hadn’t taken the instruction from Jesus to heart. Why, ?
Because forgiveness is hard.
it involves deep hurt, anger at injustice, personal feelings: it can stir up past pain and memories and so much more………………if we let it !
Trouble is that not to forgive doesn’t take away any of those feelings but allows them to continue to fester and eat away at us. Resentment, revenge become the focal point for the shaping of our life. At the moment I’m sitting writing this at 6.00 am in a quiet room after a few days away with Alison and so I could be accused of whitewashing the whole subject of oversimplifying it all, but I return you to how I began this article. Who or what has shaped your life and it’s direction ? For me a major player in this (amongst many others) has been the story of Gordon Wilson. I learnt a lesson that day, reinforced many times since, that forgiveness is the way forward.
Like everyone else I get it so terribly wrong and I want others to feel my anger, my pain; I declare that I won’t speak again, take them off my Facebook/Twitter list, or on occasions pray to God imploring Him to “sort them out”.
However God keeps drawing me back to the Jesus I follow, who as he hung on the cross declared of his accusers and their lies, of those who had hammered in the nails and of those who had jeered “Father, forgive them; they know not what they’re doing”. How can my perceived hurt compare to the one hanging there, the one on whose life I profess to model mine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that forgiveness is all there is to it. Throughout the rest of his life, Gordon Wilson worked hard to bring reconciliation between people in Northern Ireland and when he came face to face with the terrorists they apparently apologised for killing Marie. However when he asked them to stop bombing and shooting, they refused. They too declared themselves followers of religion and here lies a distinction, between an organised institution (which we would call denomination, Catholic, Protestant etc” or the modelling of our lives on the one who gives direction, purpose, meaning to our lives.
Today, tomorrow, next week we’re all going to face situations where we have a choice over forgiveness: to forgive will hurt us (as did the nails for Jesus) but in the long run will bring peace and reconciliation in our lives.