by David Sisler

If the story did not have an Associated Press signature, I probably would not have believed it. I would have suspected it of being one of those clever stories public speakers make up just so they'll have a snappy illustration. Often those imaginative narratives begin with the words, "I cannot vouch for the veracity of the following story."

Be that as it may, AP says this one really happened.

In September, 1994, Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, heard her phone ringing and walked into her house to answer it. She was confronted by a burglar who ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered Cindy into a closet.

She dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him.

"I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you," Cindy said.

The burglar apologized and yelled out to his accomplice, "We've got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can't do this to them." While her furniture was being brought back inside, Cindy remained on her knees. When the last of her belongings was returned, the burglar took the bullets out of his gun, gave it to Cindy, and walked out the door.

Can you forgive that much? Can I forgive that much?

If I had been given an opportunity to edit the Bible, there is one passage I would definitely have marked for exclusion. It is the statement of Jesus in Matthew 6:15 -- "If you do not forgive men their sins, the Father will not forgive your sins."

When I watch my wife, Bonnie, eat, I remember a time when I had to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

Bonnie was struck by a car two years ago and as a result of that accident, her sense of smell and taste was totally changed. Nothing tastes like it used to taste. Usually food just tastes unpleasant. Occasionally, it tastes so bad that she must gag it down.

I shook in anger as I watched her push back a plate of something she once enjoyed, unable even to swallow it, and heard God whisper, "If you don't forgive the driver of that car, the channel of My forgiveness to you is completely blocked."

It isn't easy. But then He didn't say it would be.

As a result of that same incident, I have also been forced to forgive God. You may never have put it in exactly those terms, but it's my bet you understand what I mean.

"God, how could you let this happen?"

"If God is so good, so wonderful, so powerful, why did He let that happen? Why did He let that happen to someone I love? Why did He let that happen to me?"

Christopher Peterman was arrested for failing to pay his traffic tickets. His parents allowed him to be locked up for the night so he would learn a lesson. That night he was tortured for almost five hours and brutally murdered. If Christopher had been your son, could you forgive yourself? Could you forgive God?

We blame God for so many things. How different a family in the mid-west about whom I read recently.

A tornado swept their home away. It even blew their car away. They succeeded in getting a car to stop to take them to the hospital, 20 miles away. The wind had driven a wooden splinter through the chest of their seven-month-old baby and he died before morning. On the little boy's tombstone, his parents inscribed, "Precious jewel, bright gem for His crown. So may the Lord's name be glorified."

No blame. No accusations. Just a praise to the Lord.

Did God cause that tornado? I don't think so, but I make that statement without the divine insight of Almighty God. Did He allow it? Obviously. Is God so callous that the only way He can get praise is through the death of a little boy? Definitely not, but never forget that God allowed His own Son to die when He could easily have spared Him. And then He said, "All things--even tragedy--work together for good for those who love Me, for those who are called according to My purpose."

Every time I watch Bonnie push her plate away, lay down her fork and sadly shake her head, I remember when God said, "David, you need to forgive Me." And I also remember it was only by His grace that I could. Otherwise, the forgiveness was not in me.

Have you forgiven God? By His grace you can. I know.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 10/14/95

Copyright 1995 by David Sisler

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