“I think she’s been hit!” someone screamed. Panic filled the room as I sat across from my friend at the coffee shop.
My mind raced and my throat felt strange and tight. I scanned the room quickly. “Is she going to be ok?” I asked.
“She needs help…NOW!” another person yelled.
“IS SHE GOING TO BE OK?” I demanded, but my plea fell on deaf ears as my friend fled her chair and the rest of the room became a blur.
“She’s going down. Quick!”
I was stunned. What even happened? Everything was fine one second and not the next. I was having coffee with my friend at our favorite spot. There were two best friends at a table next to us. A blind date seemed to be happening in the far quiet corner as I over heard sounds of, “So what’s your favorite kind of food?…Cool, that’s mine too!” A job interview was being conducted at the end of the counter. The poor kid had no barista experience, but he was trying so hard to impress the gal he hoped to be his potential boss. A big burly guy was standing in line, his wallet on a chain in his back pocket, a skeleton tattoo strangling his neck, asking if they served regular coffee with no fancy stuff in it.
My head was woozy from the pandemonium, and I quickly lowered it to the table in case more shots were fired. My fingertips slid into something on my chest…warm…wet…red. Everything went black.
When I came to, people surrounded me asking questions: Are you hurt? Were you hit? Do you know who did this? What’s her name? How long have you known her? Do you need a doctor? We’re calling for help!
What were they talking about? My friend? She wouldn’t shoot me. I trusted her. I confided in her. She wouldn’t hurt me. She couldn’t. Maybe they misunderstood. Maybe I did. What was it that she was saying before everything went crazy? Something about that “it wasn’t really [my] fault. Hopefully [I] wouldn’t take this the wrong way…” Take what the wrong way, though?
The paramedics came but I managed to cover the bullet hold and paste on a fake smile that everything was fine. Just a close call. I was lucky it wasn’t worse. They finally left: the panic finally calmed down. The big guy finally got his cup of black coffee. The kid got the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” line. I’m not sure about the potential lovebirds. I needed to get home before I bled to death.
The next few days were full of being in and out of consciousness. “Mom, I need you to come over.” My hand dropped limply from the weight of my phone.
“Oh my goodness!” she cried when she saw me.
“It’s no big deal,” I lied. When I looked down I saw that my bedding was stained with old, thick black blood, revealing an awful truth I didn’t want to face.
“What on earth has happened to you?” she begged.
I lifted away the blankets that were held tightly to me. As I pulled them away to reveal my wound, they ripped open the scab that had engulfed the fuzzy fabric sending forth new gushes of bright red blood.
“We have to get you to a doctor! This is horrible!!! We need to get you cleaned up. The bullet is still lodged inside and your wound is infected. Who did this to you?!” my distraught mother asked.
A Hit to the Heart
“My best friend,” I cried. The floodgates came down and I bawled. Disbelief washed over her as she continued on her mission to pull my near lifeless body off the couch.
“Hook your arm around my neck. We have to go now. You’re going to die without help!”
“No,” I stated and suddenly anger flared up. “I will not go to the hospital. This is not my fault. She did it. She’s the one who needs to pay for this, not me. I’d rather die than go to the doctor!”
Can you imagine? What’s wrong with this woman?
Would you really rather die than seek help if you were this woman? Of course not. Because that’s insane. But what if I told you this story wasn’t about a gunshot wound at all. What if this story was about a best friend shooting her friend with sinful behavior? What if the best friend lied about her and made her alienated from their mutual friends? What if the best friend was responsible for her being fired from her job? What if the best friend was having an affair with the woman’s husband? Did your perspective just change? What if the “best friend” said your worst fear…you fill in the blank. What if what the “shot” woman held onto was her bitterness rather than forgiveness? Hmm. Now we’re in different territory altogether.
Why do I have to deal with what they did?
God commands us to forgive because it’s a blemish on our souls and has nothing to do with the person who did something to you. Whether the offender is sorry or not has no bearing on whether or not we should choose to forgive them. As I just read, “Forgiving someone doesn’t mean justifying the act nor does it minimize the offense. You can extend forgiveness without excusing the act.“
If someone shoots you or someone you love, you wouldn’t think twice about caring for the wound. You would clean it and dress it and do whatever it takes to make sure it didn’t continue to do detrimental damage. You would never say, “Oh, that wound was inflicted by a bad person so I’m not going to touch it.” The same is true of forgiveness. Just because someone else has dirtied you by committing evil against you, you shouldn’t shy away from doing your very best to clean yourself up. It doesn’t matter who did it, whether it was intentional or not, whether they’re sorry or not, whether they’re living or not. It’s an attack against your person, and you have to care for it for your own sake.
Seventy Times Seven
Matthew 18:22 commands us to forgive 70 x 7. That doesn’t mean to put up with abuse 490 times and keep giving chances. I don’t think you ever have to give a second chance if you don’t feel it’s wise to do so. You are only commanded to forgive that many times. Your anger may flare up 490 times in a day. You must forgive each time. If your bandage gets blood-soaked 490 times in a day, you have to change it accordingly. You can’t let your blood drip all over you, ruin your clothes, and become infected until you lose a limb. No. You care for it over and over and over again.
Because He Loves Us
God speaks many times about enemies in the Bible. He wants us to be equally yoked. He talks about protecting yourself against evil. He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary achievements because of what He’s able to do through us. It’s obvious that He doesn’t desire us to be doormats: He commands us to forgive because He loves us and doesn’t want the evil of others to corrode His children.