Forgive them too?
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6: 12).
I remember exactly where I was. I was in a kindergarten teacher meeting when the school secretary burst into the room. We raced to the TV in the conference room. I trembled as I watched the events before my eyes. “Oh, my God,” I whispered. “Oh, Lord God, what is happening?”
Yesterday was Patriot’s Day, the seventh anniversary of 9/11. It has been so difficult for so many. Everyone seems to know someone affected. There has been so much loss. Families lost loved ones. Scores of friends were never seen again. Countless rescue workers gave their lives. As a country, we mourned our innocence and security. Rage toward a faceless enemy gave many of us nightmares, headaches, illnesses and depression. Jobs were lost, relationships were strained and some people never returned to “normal.” People pointed fingers. Everything and everyone was questioned.
Tears still run when I see images from that awful day. Fear, shock and helplessness are still felt today. Across the world, there were many who couldn’t shield themselves from the effects when they turned off their TV. When search and rescue teams came, a new wave of sadness rushed in. I kept checking the major networks and newspapers, certain hundreds were safe.
Those closer to the loss waited in long lines and searched Web sites for any word that their loved ones were all right. When they didn’t hear, they mourned all over again.
We clung to each other and prayed. When the first airplane flew near our playground afterward, I felt nauseated until it passed.
Now, I could easily list all of the wonderful things that came from this day. Many people came together and renewed their faith in God. Flags were flown, and stars and stripes appeared everywhere. We wore everything patriotic that we could. Songs played, flags covered sports arenas and media reporters fed us daily updates about wonderful people showing kindnesses.
But, the pain is still deep. I keep feeling the sense that I need to really focus on the forgiveness aspect of the Lord’s Prayer. I learned to say this part, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Lord, the people who are responsible definitely trespassed. How in the world can I forgive them? These bad guys are still out there. I have not seen any CNN reports that have announced anyone confessing. I’m not ready to think about forgiveness. It’s just too hard.
And then, an idea comes to mind: I will forgiven by the same measure that I have forgiven others. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus did not say, “forgive them if they agree to turn themselves in.”
So, this is what I will try. I will ask God to help me forgive those involved in any of the attacks. This is how we reconcile in kindergarten. Here’s a typical conversation between two of my students: “Abby, I’m sorry that I broke your crayons,” says Maria. “It’s OK, Abby, I forgive you. But, don’t do it again.”
I can’t expect the “bad guys” to leave us in peace. But in my prayer, I can start trying to forgive them. It is a hard thing to do, but if I want to be like Jesus, I have to start somewhere. “Dear Lord, You know my heart. You know the pain, fear, rage and confusion inside so many of us. Please, help us learn how to forgive. Continue to draw us closer to you. Amen.”
Lisa Hetzel may be reached at lisa.@lisahetzel.com.