I Met Myself on the Plane…

By: Diane Chandler
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

My blog last week, entitled “The Simplicity and Power of Testimony,” focused on the transformational power of sharing one’s personal story of God’s goodness with others. Soon after writing the blog, I flew to Vancouver, British Columbia for a work-related conference.

On the first leg of the trip, the gentleman seated beside me struck up a conversation.  After some small talk about our respective vocations and where we were headed, the conversation took an unlikely turn.  We soon found ourselves talking about the impact of fathers on their children’s lives (don’t ask me how).  Himself a father of three young children, he was especially keen on my sharing my story about my own father and how I came to a place of forgiving him several years earlier. 

As a result of forgiving him of some deeply embedded disappointments, I conveyed how I had written my father a letter expressing my love and appreciation for him a few years before he passed away.  The reason I could write the letter is because I had forgiven him.  I was free, and so was he.

After my father’s funeral, I went through his few earthly belongings and found the letter that I previously had written him.  On the top of the letter, he had penned, “This is the nicest letter I’ve ever received.”

This passenger commented, “I’ve not seen my dad for twenty years.”  He went on to explain how his father had left his mother, been unfaithful to her many times over, and basically abandoned the family.  His personal angst was visible.  He conveyed that he might now be ready to release his father from the bitterness that he has held for all these years.  I had met myself on the plane in the person of this young man.  I was once at this same place.  Different circumstances, but same decision point.  Will we or will not forgive?

The power of forgiveness is no small thing.  In his book Strength to Love (pp. 49-57), Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-45 about loving our neighbor and blessing those who despitefully use us and persecute us, all the while forgiving them.  King writes: “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act.  It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is the catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.  It is the lifting of a burden or the cancelling of a debt.”  He continues, “Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.”

So how do we forgive those who have injured us? This answer to this question is the hallmark of our faith.  We forgive because we have been forgiven.  As Jesus, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Journey Films has produced a powerful documentary entitled The Power of Forgiveness.  Stories feature how people in crisis situations have exerted extraordinary acts of forgiveness.  These vignettes include reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, the war-torn region of Beirut, the aftermath of the terrorist attack on 9/11, and the Amish tragedy of October 2, 2006 where five girls between the ages of 6-13 were senselessly murdered.  These communities exemplify the exhortation of Martin Luther King Jr. that hate is like an unchecked cancer that erodes the personality.

I am praying that in some way my story of forgiveness will prompt the passenger seated next to me to forgive and make reconciliation with his father.  I may never know the outcome.  I know that I’ll have many other occasions to inspect my own heart related to forgiveness ~ on and off the plane.

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Diane Chandler
This entry was posted by on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Family Life, Holistic Formation, Spiritual Formation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

6 Responses to “I Met Myself on the Plane…”

  1. Leo Wiltshire says:

    I remember the day, a few years after I returned to the Lord, where I was reading the Bible about when Jesus said that if we want our sins forgiven, we have to forgive others of theirs. I decided right then to just put out a blanket of forgiveness to anyone who had ever wronged me, be they family member or schoolyard bully. It felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders! None of us is so perfect (only Jesus was) that we can ignore that we may have wronged others ourselves. We can only claim our forgiveness after we have given it to others. Thanks for a great lesson, Dr. Chandler!

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Leo,

      Thank you for your response. I’m reminded of Mt. 18:21-35 where Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive his brother who has sinned against him. He suggests up to seven times. Jesus response is classic, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt. 18:22).

      In the parable that Jesus tells Peter after this (i.e., the parable of the unmerciful servant), we get a very clear idea as to Jesus’ values in this area of forgiveness. And Jesus connects our forgiving others with His forgiving us.

      As you suggest, forgiving others is incredibly freeing. Why? Because in receiving grace to forgive others, we demonstrate the character of God. It sounds like you have embraced forgiveness as a lifestyle, a powerful demonstration of God’s grace in action.

  2. John Teets says:

    Forgiveness is always beneficial. I am glad my Dad and I stayed on good terms. I remember listening to John Perkins speak movingly of forgiving those who beat him and put him in the hospital and also Pastor Johannes Christian in Columbus, Ohio, who was blinded when a young man through a rock off an overpass through his windshield. He went to the jail to forgive the man though his whole life was changed. I did find the reference to King a bit strange, though, as he rejected the authority of scripture except when convenient and had gravitated more to the principles of Ghandi. I believe our forgiveness has more weight when our personal lives are virtuous. When they are not we send a mixed message. Forgiveness is never a weapon, Jesus forgave out of love and mercy.

  3. John Teets says:

    Forgiveness is always beneficial. I am glad my Dad and I stayed on good terms. I remember listening to John Perkins speak movingly of forgiving those who beat him and put him in the hospital and also Pastor Johannes Christian in Columbus, Ohio, who was blinded when a young man threw a rock off an overpass through his windshield. He went to the jail to forgive the man though his whole life was changed. I did find the reference to King a bit strange, though, as he rejected the authority of scripture except when convenient and had gravitated more to the principles of Ghandi. I believe our forgiveness has more weight when our personal lives are virtuous. When they are not we send a mixed message. Forgiveness is never a weapon, Jesus forgave out of love and mercy. We forgive because we are forgiven. We were given the authority to forgive sins in his name. Those outside of Christ do not have the authority to forgive sins though I believe it is personally beneficial for them to do so.

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      John,

      I appreciate your input related to forgiveness. Truly, retribution is human, and forgiveness is divine. We simply cannot forgive others without God’s grace. Forgiving others essential embodies the premise that by doing so, God then takes responsibility for the wrongdoing and will mete out justice from His divine perspective (c.f., Romans 12:20).

      My reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. relates to his clear value of not responding in corresponding anger, hate, hostility, and violence against those who blatantly and willfully practiced racism. His message consistently was to forgive. And I do believe that although his platform of non-violence derived in part from Ghandhi, the underlying values he exemplified were Christ-centered.

      Further, the benefits of forgiving others, I believe, are formidable for all those who do so ~ including those who may not followers of Jesus. However, the power to forgive for believers in Jesus derives clearly from God’s grace and through obedience.

      I do appreciate your interaction on our blog site and hope you continue to participate with us.

  4. Evelyn Johnson (rev ej) says:

    Interesting subject, forgiveness-my favorite. Forgiveness has been an integral part of my existence. I have experienced abuse in several ways by alleged friends and family members. However, after years of reflecting upon those experiences, I have learned to forgive. The story of Joseph (Genesis 45) and his brothers is my favorite story. God had a purpose for Joseph and the brothers were the instruments God used to orchestrate his plan. Forgiving those who have wronged me ushers me into God’s magnificent presence. My ongoing reflection on forgiveness is that I need to forgive others so that God may forgive me. When I offer my testimony of forgiveness,it is with the intention to help someone else who is struggling with unforgiveness. Worse things happened to Jesus and he forgave, why can’t I? Past the point of unforgiveness.