He was in his late twenties and roughly dressed. He boldly told me his story of being severely beaten as a child and nearly dying. He sought revenge when he was well and nearly killed his assailant. Of course, this happened many years ago and as disturbing as these details were, he still felt justified for his actions. Many of us would. You do to me, and I do to you back. Eye for an eye sort of thing. Most of us realize that two wrongs don’t make a right. But I think this one goes even deeper than that.
On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, just a few minutes before 10 am, Charles Roberts backed a pick-up up to the front door of a one room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He unloaded an arsenal of weapons and ordered a select few of the girls, all the boys and the teacher out of the building. Left inside were 10 girls of various, but young ages. He dialed 911 and told them what was happening with the orders to not try and talk him out of it. He’d also called his wife to give her some rattled message finishing with “Don’t worry about anything.” Roberts was beyond human help at this point. When he was done, five girls were dead and the other five were seriously wounded. And without a doubt, scarred for life both physically and emotionally. The police stormed the doors and Roberts turned the gun on himself. It was over. At least for him. For the families of these little innocent girls, it was just beginning.
The Amish are a unique and simple people and this was Amish country. They generally have no vehicles, no electricity, very little luxuries at all. They farm and work very hard to live. They have a strong faith in common as well. In the matter of a day, the news reported that the people of the community (including family members of the deceased girls) had publicly offered forgiveness to the shooter. This wasn’t something they just said for good public relations. P.R. was never something these folks ever needed or desired. They offered forgiveness because that’s who they are and that’s what their faith is about.
It’s hard to forgive someone who’s done us bad. Whether it was a forgotten phone call, child abuse, or the murder of your child. How you “brew” your tea is entirely in your hands, though.
Let me explain. If you brew your tea too long, it becomes bitter. Now there are two ways to deal with bitter tea (in my limited experience): 1) Sugar. Heap that stuff into it until you can’t taste the bitterness anymore. 2) throw it out and start with a fresh batch. The biggest issue with sugar is that it really alters the flavor. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate sweet tea. Loved it as a kid, hate it now. Mainly because I love the flavor of tea, not sugar. Hot or iced. But bitter tea will always be bitter tea. Add sugar to it and you have sweetened bitter tea. It’s still bitter. The sugar “hides” the bitter flavor, but you are still drinking bitter tea.
On the other hand, a fresh batch solves all the issues involved. Let’s face it, tea isn’t really expensive. Unless you order it at a restaurant, but let’s not open that rabbit hole, okay? A few bags of tea won’t cost you much but sure is nice when brewed up good and proper. Then, whether you need destroy it with sugar or you like to sip it in the manner God intended us to, you don’t have a bitter beginning.
You know, some of us have a tendency to “brew” a little too long. And like tea, the longer we brew, the more bitter we become. Bitter and angry. And ugly. Someone once pointed out that we often suffer through our bitterness and unforgiveness all the while being the only one in pain. Many times the one we’re so upset with has no idea we’re upset and goes about life just fine, completely unaware of our dilemma. And even if they do know that there is trouble between us, is it okay for us and them to suffer, half the time for reasons that no longer even matter…Or even remember? Throw it out and start with a fresh batch. Forgive and forget. We’re only here for a short time anyway.
After the people whom He came to save hung him on a cross, Jesus looked down at the people standing there, many of whom were mocking Him, and said “Father forgive them…” Something to think on.
I like this analogy, especially as a plain tea drinker. :-)
Unforgiveness surely does more harm to the one who is bitter than to the object of their bitterness.
If you like poetry at all, you might read my "Lethal Return," also about unforgiveness.
Welcome to FW.