Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Blessing of Forgiveness

When I entered the crowded room yesterday, I saw her across room. My heart was strangely warmed to know she was here with me. It brought back a flood of memories from nearly twelve years ago. Some of those memories were sweet, some painful, but all were laced with the fragrance of forgiveness. Her name is Mary* and she nearly killed my family eleven years ago in a car accident. Mary had struggled with alcoholism most of her adult life and on that fateful morning so long ago had been heavily drinking. She drove her car head on into mine. The accident was so severe that the police who responded were amazed that anyone survived. My wife’s arm was broken and required major surgery. My leg was so shattered that at first they thought it would have to be amputated, but after surgery and many months of physical therapy, I learned to walk again. My youngest son was the most severely hurt. His back was broken and he suffered massive internal injuries. The small hospital in our area was unable to treat him for his injuries and rushed him to another hospital that had a pediatric intensive care unit. I remember the doctor telling us to say good bye to him before they put him in the ambulance because the doctor did not think we would ever see him again. For three days his life hung in the balance. But the Lord of Glory choose to use His power to spare my son’s life and though he spent months in a body cast, he made a full recovery. He is now a junior in high school and involved in both basketball and football and one would never know how serious he had been injured as a preschooler.

Years later the word “hate” sounds so harsh, but to be honest, that is exactly what I felt for Mary after the accident. I had moved to a small village in Vermont to serve as a missionary with the North American Mission Board. My specific ministry was to be the pastor of a small congregation of less than 20 that was struggling to survive. I was supposed to tell people like Mary about Jesus so they could be freed from their sins and be transformed into holy living Christians. That was such a glorious dream, until Mary nearly shattered it.

I had nightmares for months about the accident. I would wake up in a cold sweat and the hatred I felt for Mary would wash over me in waves. One part of my mind knew that I needed to forgive Mary, but another part easily justified the fact that Mary did not deserve forgiveness. One night, as I wrestled with those feelings, I tried once again to explain to God what Mary had done to my son. God listened patiently. He’s good at that. Then He responded with a still small voice and explained to me what I had done to His Son. God the Father showed me the depth of my own sin that had made it necessary for Jesus Christ, His Son, to die upon the cross. God reminded me that He had graciously spared my own son in the accident that Mary caused, but that Jesus, the Son of God, had to die because of my own sin. That night I asked God to help me learn to forgive and it was the first step in a long journey of healing in my own life. It took time, but I did learn to forgive Mary.

I invited her to church and she agreed to come. I sat behind her during her trial and subsequent sentencing. I went to visit her in jail as she served time for the accident. These were not easy steps for me, but they were important in the overall process of forgiveness. When Mary was released from jail, she began coming to church regularly. One Sunday Mary asked if I might come to her home and explain more about how she might trust Jesus. A deacon and I went and sat in her kitchen, surrounded by bottles of alcohol, I shared that Jesus loved her and had a plan for her life. It would not be an easy plan, for it would require significant change, but it would be a plan that would be for her good and if she would choose to follow it, I promised her she would not regret it. That day Mary gave her life to Christ and the woman who nearly killed my family became my sister in the Lord.

A few months later, after I had recovered physically, I was able to baptize Mary. In the years since she has become a glowing Christian. She has served on the church board. She has been involved in a variety of ministry opportunities at the church. Though I have since moved on to a new ministry in a town not far away, Mary continues to serve the Lord in that little village church.

This weekend I am attending the annual meeting of my denomination’s regional organization. The meeting is filled with reports from the various national entities operated by our denomination as well as reports of the missionaries and staff members serving the churches in New England that are connected to our particular branch of the body of Christ. Each church sends representatives to hear the reports and vote on various issues to give direction to the denomination for the next year. As I walked into the room yesterday, one of the first people I saw was Mary. There she sat across the room, the woman who nearly killed my family 11 years ago, now sitting in the same room helping me make decisions for how our denomination will reach other Mary’s with the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. To me, that is what living like a missionary is all about. I can honestly say that Mary is a blessing to my life. Seeing her across the room at that meeting reminded me of the blessing of forgiveness that I have received from Christ. I can do nothing less that offer that same blessing to others as I seek to live like a missionary and share the forgiveness of God with anyone who will listen.

*I have changed Mary’s name to protect her privacy.

43 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have known "Mary" for years. Your offer of forgiveness to her changed many more lives than just hers. God bless you.

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  2. Jay Wolf, pastor, FBC, Montgomery, ALNovember 13, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Beyond SPECTACULAR, my brother Terry!!!!!!!!!

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  3. Amazing story of healing, forgiveness and how God can take something meant for evil and bring more glory than if it had never happened.

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  4. Terry, You have such a forgiving spirit. I only wish I would do as well should the occasion ever arise. Janie

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  5. Lori Davis, Barre, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    I like this.

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  6. Has it really been 12 years? I'm not sure I can juggle the memories of that weekend right now.

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  7. This story always brings tears to my eyes. God is so good.

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  8. Rob Lopez, Barre, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    I like this too.

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  9. Ken Kennedy, Chelsea, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    It is easy for those of us that were here at that time to recognize this story! What a testimony! And did how so much time has passed so quickly! Praise God for the outcome!

    Ken

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  10. Tony Appuglies, pastor, Grace Bible Church, Moscow, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Brother, do I need to forgive you for something? I got 17 copies of this.....

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  11. Tony,

    Sorry for the repeated copies. I uploaded it at the motel this morning and apparently my computer did not sync with their internet too well as it went out multiple times instead of just once. So please forgive me for sending so many copies. LOL.

    Dr. T

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  12. Phil Steadman, Pastor, Capstone Baptist Church, North Bennington, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    Beautiful Terry! FYI, I also got this like 15 times in a row.

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  13. C. W. Hicks, Pastor, Crossway Community Church, Seneca, SCNovember 13, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Thank you for sharing this story afresh. I was on the outside looking in while you and your family was going through this difficult time. In S.C. there were many prayers lifted to heaven for you and your family. We would hear from time to time on how all were doing. I can't remember hearing the ministry part at that time. Thank you again for an uplifting report on HIS Forgiveness. You can see what GOD had in store for you by going through all you did. I rejoice in HIS GREATNESS. I pray for complete boldness in sharing HIS FORGIVENESS. Keep the faith and I know all your needs will be meet.

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  14. Dr. and Mrs. H. B. Graves, Knox City, TXNovember 13, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Dear Terry,
    What a wonderful message. Thanks for sharing with us. We knew you all had had an accident, but have never heard the story.
    Love in Christ
    Jo and HB

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  15. Pastor Terry, thanks for the heart-felt reminder of the testimony you gave to the 'Circle of Friends' Sunday school class a few years ago at our Mission Impact Celebration at Parkwood Baptist church in Gastonia, NC. I have fwd'd it on to several people. Hope you are doing well ! In Christ, ---JP

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  16. Jeff Kauffman, Pastor, Hope Community Fellowship, Bridport, VTNovember 13, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    OK Terry--I get the message--17 times. Thanks for the nice reminder though.

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  17. The Kiner Family, Upper Pen., MichiganNovember 13, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING THAT GREAT TESTIMONY. PRAISE GOD EVEN BACK THEN OUR LORD KNEW HOW HE WOULD USE YOU TO SPREAD THE LOVE OF JESUS. HAVE A GREAT DAY IN THE LORD TOMORROW.
    GOD BLESS.

    ELLEN,RALPH AND TED

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  18. Denise Kissee, Dr. T's sisterNovember 13, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    I like this.

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  19. I am still amazed at God's ways and because of His foregiveness I recieved your forgiveness, which I will hold dearly in my heart always. May God bless you and hold you close my dear brother. We truly have the tie that binds forever. Praise the Lord.

    "Mary"

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  20. Terry, this is very good. I will forward it to some others who I personally know need to read this. Thanks for writing it.

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  21. Terry,

    Thanks for sharing such a powerful example of a Christian man tapping into the strength of Christ within him and enabling you to forgive “Mary.”

    I would greatly appreciate your permission to share what to me was a huge blessing, with the folks at our church in my next sermon on dealing with our anger Biblically.

    Keep on preaching and practicing what you preach, Terry.

    Mike

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  22. Mike,
    Feel free to share the story with others. You might note the comment from "Mary," which is above.

    Terry

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  23. Jimmie Mize, pastor, Brownwood, TXNovember 14, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    Terry,
    Just a note. Thank you for sharing your testimony on the Blessing of Forgiveness. It blessed my heart immensely. I am a Baptist pastor here in central Texas and I plan to share it with our congregation in a Sunday morning message in the next Sunday or two. I know it will bless and encourage them. I follow with interest the good ministry in Vermont and pray for God's continuing blessings on you, your family and all your folks and ministry there. Have a good day.

    Jimmie Mize, Brownwood, TX.

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  24. Terry
    Thank you so much for sharing this. Is it okay to put it on Facebook? In this season of Joy there are many for whom the memories are bitter. Your personal journey and testimony would reach many for whom this is not a season of good will to all men. I though about posting it but it is really not my story to tell unless it is okay with you. God Bless you Terry
    Jane Shortsleeves

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  25. Jane,
    Feel free to put it on Facebook or anywhere else you think it might help people learn the value of forgiveness.

    Dr. T.

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  26. Pastor Dorsett,

    My dad forwarded me the post about forgiveness and the woman who was involved in your car accident years ago. I just wanted to thank you for that post. I remember very clearly hearing about your accident and how severe it was. I remember praying for you guys in my 5th and 6th grade class room. It is amazing to see how God used what happened 11 years ago to change a woman's life forever. Thank you for taking that opportunity and being Christ to her.

    Dan Lee

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  27. Kirby Sechrist, North CarolinaNovember 15, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    What a wonderful story about the accident. God is truly wonderful in His grace and Mercy. Thank you for following the Holy Spirit. I can't imagine how hard that was to endure. Your example and life is an inspiration to Twyla and I constantly.

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  28. Kevin Pounds, Serve BurlingtonNovember 15, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Terry,
    That was an amazing post. Thank you for sharing that. BTW, just moved into our "new" place in Burlington on Saturday (two days ago).
    I'd love to grab lunch or coffee in the next couple of weeks. My schedule is fairly open and flexible. Look forward to catching up,

    Kevin Pounds

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  29. this is very moving. thanks for posting it.

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  30. The article was reprinted on Baptist Press.
    http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=34152

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  31. This particular blog post has been re-posted an several dozen websites because the story speaks so powerfully of what God can do when we let him.

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  32. I finally read this article today and I found it beautiful. God is great is so many ways, I don't know what else to say but that. Bless you and your family, and again thank you for the privledge of walking in your home.
    Love in our Father,
    Danielle Roy
    "Mary's daughter"

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  33. Danielle,
    God is powerful and able to help us all do things in His strength that we could never do in our own strength.

    Dr. T

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  34. If this doesn't stop and make you think, nothing will. Thank you Terry for sharing such an amazing story. The one thing in my life that I have always struggled with is "forgiveness," and as you said I think we all do. People are not perfect, we all sin, and that is why forgiveness is so important.

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  35. patsy hendrix anderson scDecember 20, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    Forgiveness is not only for the person that you have those hard feelings for but it is mostly a gift that God gives to us. Otherwise a bitterness takes root that has devastating consequences and quenches His Spirit. It is hard to understand when you are in the throes of trying to justify your anger. Later on when you try God's way of approaching the hurt and pain: you realize the gift of peace you have been given.

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  36. I officiated at "Mary's" husband's funeral two weeks ago. He slipped from this life into the next. He had become a great Christian in his later years. I hope we get to be neighbors in heaven.

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  37. Thanks for sharing this story with us, it is powerful.

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