We all have moments in our lives, moments that are crystal clear, moments that, no matter how old we become, we’ll never forget….even if we wish we could. A marriage, the birth of a child, loss of a loved one….I could go on and on, but I think you’ve got the idea.
So, what is this post about? It’s about Judgement, Justice, forgiveness, acceptance….
Before I delve into this post, please, if you know who I’m writing about, please don’t use names.
Tonight, as I have done many nights in the past 26 years, I’ve thought about a friend of mine. I’ve wondered how her life has turned out. Is she ok? Where is she? What is she like now?
When I was a young teenager, I had a friend. She was so very sweet, kind, thoughtful. That’s who she was then. One day, all of that changed. In just ONE day, her life was irrevocably and profoundly changed so that there was no going back to the girl she was. Never.
One day, my friend’s mother, a woman whose home I’d been in, who was a staple at our sporting events, knew all of the kids’ names….one day….she snapped. She shot her son, turned and shot my friend, and then tried to kill herself.
To say our town was stunned is putting it lightly.
Her son died instantly, but my friend….she didn’t. She survived. As soon as I found out, I got in touch with her dad, found out what hospital she was in, and my dad drove me there to spend an afternoon with her.
How do you look at someone who has just suffered something so traumatic, so devastating, that you know… The minute you saw her…she was different? How could she not be? How could any of us, in the same situation, not be changed?
In my young mind….I was naive…I’d never dealt with something like this. How do you comfort? How do you help heal? What did I do? I took makeup and hair supplies. I did her makeup, fixed her hair pretty, and, all the while…she talked. She sat and talked through everything with me. Exactly what happened, where it happened, why it happened. Do you know what I remember most? She didn’t cry. Not a single tear. She’d already locked it down. Way down.
I listened….no questions….I just thought I’d provide what I had…a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear.
She told me that, after she was shot, she got the gun and tried to use it on her mom but it was empty. No tears, just a matter of fact statement about what had happened.
We sat for a few hours, talking about the event, about makeup, about hair stuff….it was a varied conversation.
When I left, I promised to be there for her in whatever way she needed. And so I was.
About 2 weeks after the incident, I went with her back to her home to pack some things she’d need at her dad’s house. What an eerie thing. She walked thru and told me where she was, where her brother was, everything. Again, no tears, just a calm exterior that had locked the emotions up.
I remember leaving that house, thinking….this is too heavy. For her, for me, for anybody. It was the first time I realized…truly realized there was evil in the world.
In January of 1987, my friend, although no longer at my school…we still talked daily at this point, she asked me for a favor. I had no clue what she was going to ask and it shocked me.
She said she wanted to go to her mother’s sentencing and they thought it’d be a good idea if she had a psychologist with her. She said she just wanted a friend, someone who knew her, not someone impersonal. She asked if I would be that friend. The answer, of course, was yes.
When that day came, I don’t remember much about the proceedings. What do I remember? I remember watching her mom walk in and that’s it….for that part of things. From the moment her mom came in the room, I felt my friend stiffen, tighten her grip on my hand, barely breathing. I remember thinking a stiff wind might break her into a thousand pieces. From that moment on, all my focus was on my friend. Doing what I could to let her know she wasn’t alone. I didn’t even remember the sentence her mom got. I remember my friend and the vault that was within her that locked her emotions away.
From that day, we talked but as our lives changed,we grew, we became different people. We had less in common and she was spiraling out of control. I had no idea how to help, what to say, how to comfort her. All my life, I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, too emotional….but that’s me. It won’t change. I think those qualities are what my friend needed at that time of her life. She needed someone to cry for her since she couldn’t cry for herself. There are seasons in our lives that God places people to help us along, someone to carry your burdens with you. I think He put me in her life for that but I also believe she was put in my life for the same reason.
The last time I saw her, we ran into each other at the drive in. My husband and I were there on a date and I ran into her in the concession stand. She wasn’t the girl who’d been my friend 10 years earlier. She was hard, angry, bitter. Again, who wouldn’t be? Who wouldn’t be different? No longer the sweet, thoughtful, kind girl she had been. I had no idea how to reach her, how to let her know I was still here. But she didn’t want that. I understand…I think….I think maybe, she didn’t want connections with the girl she was; she was a different woman and she’d learned to protect herself against any and all emotion. It broke my heart.
So you may ask….why am I writing this?
For many years….sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, sometimes even daily, I’ve thought of her. How she is now, 26 years since that awful day. Has she found peace? Has she found happiness? Has she dealt with it?
Then, tonight….just by random….I found out her mom had been released from jail. When? June, 2000. She’d served just 13 years for her crimes. 13 years! She was given a 50 year sentence and she served 13 years.
I don’t know why this has hit me so hard. I haven’t been able to sleep because I can’t stop crying. Why? This didn’t happen to me! It happened to her!! All those times I’ve thought about her, I always found comfort in one tiny seed of hope….that as long as her mother was in jail, my friend would feel safe. She wouldn’t have to worry about her mom being out and about, maybe wanting to see her. Then I found this info tonight and my heart breaks for her. To be honest, I was mad. Mad at a system that lets a woman go just 13 years after she killed her son and attempted to kill her daughter.
Was justice served? Was the judgement just? She took the lives of two people that day. Her son’s life and her daughter’s life. Both were murdered; it’s just that my friend’s life as she knew it was murdered. Her life she hoped to have, the life she deserved to have, the right to be innocent just a bit longer….it was all taken away from her. Her heart was still beating but her life wasn’t.
As I’m writing this, I can’t stop crying. I’ve been talking to God, asking, how is that just? How is it acceptable?? 13 years for such a horrific crime of a mother….a mother…taking the lives of her children. 13 years.
So I prayed, asked for guidance because my heart is feeling a bit hardened right now….not towards God but towards man. Towards the sins that abound in this world. How do we cope with that? How do we deal with the evil that resides on this side of the veil? Should I ever have the blessing of being in contact with my friend, how would I explain to her what God says about this? The only thing that kept coming to mind is the verse which says, Vengeance is mine!
God says, the Vengeance is HIS…..not ours.
I kept thinking….Lord is that all we have to cling to when bad things happen? Horrible things that we can’t understand, things we want to avenge ourselves….is that all we have? No. That was a very clear answer to me. No…..
I went to Romans 12:9-21
This section in my Bible is titled: BEHAVE LIKE A CHRISTIAN.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving The Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with ALL men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says The Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty; give him drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.
Would this give my friend hope? I would like to think so but I don’t really know. We’re all different, we all have our own path to walk.
By no means did I think anything I did with her was for me in any way. My focus was so much on her that that’s all I remember. When I heard about her mother being released after just 13 short years, my immediate thought was, how did she handle it? How is she? Does she feel, as all of us would be tempted to feel, a deep desire for revenge? A deep desire to make that person hurt the way they hurt you? To make their lives change just as they had made yours change?
It’s so tempting….so tempting….but that path only leads to one direction; lack of fulfillment. It won’t change your life, it will weigh your life down even more. What do we do?
We heap blessings upon their heads. We remember that God, who sees ALL, has judgement and justice in his hands. There is redemption for everyone, no matter the sin. My prayer is for lives to be changed; to be healed. To focus on who God calls us to be as Christians. To leave judgement and wrath for Him to deal with. It isn’t our place.
Does that mean it’s easy? Not by a long shot. This walk will never be easy. The day it becomes easy is the day we are no longer on the path.
My heart, hearing this news, broke all over again for my friend. She deserves to have her burden lifted. In my experience, that only happens when we have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I ask you to join me in prayer that my friend, wherever she may be, has already accepted Him. Pray, if she hasn’t, that God will put people in her life who will minister to her, who’ll show her how to ease the hurt. Pray for her to have peace.
So do we only have God’s vengeance to cling to? No! We have SO much more. We have an example of how to handle the evil in this world. We love each other, we care for each other, we don’t repay evil for evil. We stand back and realize we have no control over certain things in this life. We can know, however, our God is just and He will take care of things. We just have to step back and let Him.
We all must Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. In this life, there seems to be more evil than good lately. It seems everything is falling apart. It isn’t. God’s timing is impeccable. Until then, I choose to “Cling to what is good” and I pray you do too.