Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"The Heart of the Matter"

I don't know quite what to say about a book that's simultaneously the most inspiring and most horrifying book I've ever read. Left To Tell narrates the life of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a young survivor of Rwanda's brutal genocide in the early 1990s. While her family, friends, neighbors and schoolmates were horrifically killed, Immaculee and seven other women survived by hiding for months in a pastor's closet-sized bathroom. Unable to speak to those hiding with her - for fear of being heard by their enemies - Immaculee passed time in prayer and meditation. Many of her prayers were for her own safety but what was much more shocking was how she prayed for forgiveness for those committing the atrocities against her loved ones. Let me repeat that - she prayed for the people who murdered her parents, she prayed for the people who decapitated and dismembered her brother with their machetes, she prayed for the people who raped and abused her friends and neighbors. My first thought was "She's a much better woman than me!" I'd be furious, depressed, outraged, and a whole list of other things that probably shouldn't be listed here... and she was forgiving? It's such an upside down - even absurd - concept to me but she goes on to describe that she felt so much hate and anger towards the murderers that without forgiveness she would become just like them. It seems so revolutionary, but it's by far the most radical, most extreme, and most correct scenario of how God intends his people to live. Forgiveness. For anything and everything done to us and our loved ones - complete and total forgiveness.

A friend of mine once confided in me that she wished she was closer to one of her parents. They had been through a rough situation and she pinpointed an incident that drew them very far apart. She told me, "I just don't see us ever being as close as we were before." Saddened by this remark I suggested, "Have you thought about what it would mean to forgive everything that's happened?" With pain and anger in her eyes she shot back "That's absolutely NOT possible." I know situations like this happen a lot but in light of Immaculee's testimony, how can we claim forgiveness to be impossible? Hard, yes. Difficult, for sure. Painful, you bet. But impossible?? Perhaps that's just a convenient word for "not worth my effort".

There's a quote I heard a while ago and I'm sure it's from some brilliant mega-Christian like C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, or Oswald Chambers but it could just as easily be from R.A. Salvatore or Mark Twain. If you know who said it for sure, leave a comment but it says "Forgiveness is the fragrance the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it" and I think that's an interesting way of putting it because too often we focus on being crushed flowers rather than becoming air fresheners. Oddly enough while pondering all this in my head this morning, I heard a great song on the radio. It's the title of this blog and the song's by The Eagles or maybe it's a Don Henley solo project (I can't tell the difference, really) - either way it sums things up pretty darn well.
I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter
but I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness...

These times are so uncertain,
there's a yearning undefined and people filled with rage.
We all need a little tenderness,
how can love survive in such a graceless age?
The trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness,
they're the very things we kill, I guess....

The more I know, the less I understand.
All the things I thought I'd figured out,
I have to learn again...

I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter...
I think it's about forgiveness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The forgiveness quote is from Mark Twain.