On July 2, 1881, the 20th president of the United States, President James Garfield, was in a railroad station getting ready to board a train for the New Jersey shore, when he was suddenly shot twice by a madman, Charles Guiteau.
President Garfield was shot twice at close range…one shot glanced off of his arm while the second bullet found its way into his abdomen. He was taken immediately to Washington DC to be cared for and treated.
Over the course of the next 80 days, sixteen doctors tried their skill and techniques to try to save the life of the president. The stuck a metal probe into him to search for the bullet as well as their dirty fingers and filthy instruments.
Because of the heat and humidity it was decided that he would be moved to a cottage at the Jersey shore. Shortly thereafter, President Garfield’s temperature began to rise, so the decision was made to reopen him up and try to dislodge the bullet and again, they failed. What started out as a shallow, 3 inch wound became a huge 20 inch long, pus infected wound that leaked infection and fluids…from his ribs to his groin.
His robust weight of 210 pounds dropped to an anemic 130 pounds. Then, on September 19, 1881, President Garfield yelled out, “This pain, this pain!” He was suffering from a massive heart attack and died a little while later.
You may be asking yourself what this story has to do with forgiveness and unforgiveness. Well, this story illustrates the harmful power unforgiveness. Sometimes when a person is wronged, whether it be verbal, physical, or mentally, it can be a very difficult thing to forgive the transgressor.
In a group setting, the effects of unforgiveness can have an even greater effect on a person…and here is why. When a person (or a group of people) cannot forgive an individual…what sometimes happens is that the wronged person might begin to get teased, ridiculed, laughed at, or sometimes, sadly, even harmed by the stubborn person (or people) or cannot forgive.
The result? What could have ended a problem, a situation, or a wrong-doing in a quick, simple fashion, festered into something ugly and sometimes, repulsive. Just like the doctors who “treated” President Garfield with dirty hands and implements….harmful words and actions y others can “infect” and “contaminate” a person’s soul, which can destroy an individual’s life.
It is important to remember this…it wasn’t the bullet that lead to President Garfield’s death…it was the constant prodding, poking, and bad practices that caused him to die. Such it is when people cannot forgive..it can lead to the destruction of others.
So, remember, the next time you have the ability and opportunity to forgive someone who has confessed to you a wrong, even though it might be a hard thing to do, have the courage and conviction to do what is right…and help heal a wounded soul today!
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” _ Matthew 6: 14-15
GOD STILL HEALS AND RESTORES!!
Some very interesting additional information about this story from a reader of this blog: You really struck on an important point in the history of our country for your good illustration! With very great interest, I read “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President,” by the very talented author, Candice Millard. You are quite correct that Garfield’s physicians killed him via unsanitary treatment ~ completely unacceptable because Dr. Lister in France had already discovered the necessity in providing medical care in a completely sanitized environment; however, did you know that Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, sent his own father’s physician, Dr. Willard Bliss, to Washington to help in the treatment of Garfield? And also that one Dr. Susan Edson, one of the first female doctors in the country, was also present? Also, very interesting, a young Alexander Graham Bell attempted inventing an instrument capable of precisely locating the bullet w/o invasive procedure? (The fully successful completion of this would, unfortunately, come later but still…) “noblethemes”
There are times in our lives when we react to situations without thinking or knowing the facts in negative ways: saying inappropriate things, losing our temper etc. In the end, once we find out what REALLY happened and WHY…we often feel humiliated, ashamed or foolish. This is a story that will touch your heart and hopefully, and remind us to remember to be patient, take our time and understand why sometimes, when we jump to the wrong conclusions, it can affect us more than we could ever imagine.
This is a re-post of one of the first blogs that I ever posted.
The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”
The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.
Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
We need to remember that while our words can help uplift and soothe a person’s soul…they can also be hurtful. We need to be careful of “jumping to conclusions” and saying things that may hurt someone before knowing an entire situation. In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings, have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses… from our children, family members, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than this.
This is a cute picture of a nephew and niece of mine. They are are brother and sister who simply love each other which is apparent in the photo. There is nothing sweeter than seeing a brother and his sister being each others best friend!!
There are times throughout our lives when wrongs are done to us that are sometimes very hard to forgive and forget. Hatred fuels bitterness and sometimes the only thing that will help relieve us from this bitterness is the power that we can only receive from God.
I read the following true story, written by Tim Kimmel, demonstrates a very powerful story of how the miracle of forgiveness helped to heal the wound of bitterness. It is my hope that, in some way, this story will help someone dealing with a wrong or a heart of bitterness to aply this sense of forgiveness in much the same way.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded, conquered, and occupied Korea. Of all of their oppressors, Japan was the most ruthless. They overwhelmed the Koreans with a brutality that would sicken the strongest of stomachs. Their crimes against women and children were inhuman. Many Koreans live today with the physical and emotional scars from the Japanese occupation.
One group singled out for concentrated oppression was the Christians. When the Japanese army overpowered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical churches and eject most foreign missionaries. It has always fascinated me how people fail to learn from history. Conquering nations have consistently felt that shutting up churches would shut down Christianity. It didn’t work in Rome when the church was established, and it hasn’t worked since. Yet somehow the Japanese thought they would have a different success record.
The conquerors started by refusing to allow churches to meet and jailing many of the key Christian spokesmen. The oppression intensified as the Japanese military increased its profile in the South Pacific. The “Land of the Rising Sun” spread its influence through a reign of savage brutality. Anguish filled the hearts of the oppressed — and kindled hatred deep in their souls. One pastor persistently entreated his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. His nagging was finally accommodated, and the police chief offered to unlock his church … for one meeting.
It didn’t take long for word to travel. Committed Christians starving for an opportunity for unhindered worship quickly made their plans. Long before dawn on that promised Sunday, Korean families throughout a wide area made their way to the church. They passed the staring eyes of their Japanese captors, but nothing was going to steal their joy. As they closed the doors behind them they shut out the cares of oppression and shut in a burning spirit anxious to glorify their Lord.
The Korean church has always had a reputation as a singing church. Their voices of praise could not be concealed inside the little wooden frame sanctuary. Song after song rang through the open windows into the bright Sunday morning. For a handful of peasants listening nearby, the last two songs this congregation sang seemed suspended in time. It was during a stanza of “Nearer My God to Thee” that the Japanese police chief waiting outside gave the orders. The people toward the back of the church could hear them when they barricaded the doors, but no one realized that they had doused the church with kerosene until they smelled the smoke. The dried wooden skin of the small church quickly ignited. Fumes filled the structure as tongues of flame began to lick the baseboard on the interior walls.
There was an immediate rush for the windows. But momentary hope recoiled in horror as the men climbing out the windows came crashing back in — their bodies ripped by a hail of bullets. The good pastor knew it was the end. With a calm that comes from confidence, he led his congregation in a hymn whose words served as a fitting farewell to earth and a loving salutation to heaven. The first few words were all the prompting the terrified worshipers needed. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing their hope and leave their legacy.
Their song became a serenade to the horrified and helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent: Alas! and did my Savior bleed? and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Just before the roof collapsed they sang the last verse, their words an eternal testimony to their faith: But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe: Here, Lord, I give myself away ‘Tis all that I can do! At the cross, at the cross Where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away — It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day.
The strains of music and wails of children were lost in a roar of flames. The elements that once formed bone and flesh mixed with the smoke and dissipated into the air. The bodies that once housed life fused with the charred rubble of a building that once housed a church. But the souls who left singing finished their chorus in the throne room of God. Clearing the incinerated remains was the easy part. Erasing the hate would take decades. For some of the relatives of the victims, this carnage was too much. Evil had stooped to a new low, and there seemed to be no way to curb their bitter loathing of the Japanese.
In the decades that followed, that bitterness was passed on to a new generation. The Japanese, although conquered, remained a hated enemy. The monument the Koreans built at the location of the fire not only memorialized the people who died, but stood as a mute reminder of their pain. Inner rest? How could rest coexist with a bitterness deep as marrow in the bones?
Suffering, of course, is a part of life. People hurt people. Almost all of us have experienced it at some time. Maybe you felt it when you came home to find that your spouse had abandoned you, or when your integrity was destroyed by a series of well-timed lies, or when your company was bled dry by a partner. It kills you inside. Bitterness clamps down on your soul like iron shackles.
The Korean people who found it too hard to forgive could not enjoy the “peace that passes all understanding.” Hatred choked their joy. It wasn’t until 1972 that any hope came. A group of Japanese pastors traveling through Korea came upon the memorial. When they read the details of the tragedy and the names of the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. Their country had sinned, and even though none of them were personally involved (some were not even born at the time of the tragedy), they still felt a national guilt that could not be excused.
They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). The money was transferred through proper channels and a beautiful white church building was erected on the sight of the tragedy.
When the dedication service for the new building was held, a delegation from Japan joined the relatives and special guests. Although their generosity was acknowledged and their attempts at making peace appreciated, the memories were still there. Hatred preserves pain. It keeps the wounds open and the hurts fresh. The Koreans’ bitterness had festered for decades. Christian brothers or not, these Japanese were descendants of a ruthless enemy.
The speeches were made, the details of the tragedy recalled, and the names of the dead honored. It was time to bring the service to a close. Someone in charge of the agenda thought it would be appropriate to conclude with the same two songs that were sung the day the church was burned.
The song leader began the words to “Nearer My God to Thee.” But something remarkable happened as the voices mingled on the familiar melody. As the memories of the past mixed with the truth of the song, resistance started to melt. The inspiration that gave hope to a doomed collection of churchgoers in a past generation gave hope once more.
The song leader closed the service with the hymn “At the Cross.”
The normally stoic Japanese could not contain themselves. The tears that began to fill their eyes during the song suddenly gushed from deep inside. They turned to their Korean spiritual relatives and begged them to forgive. The guarded, calloused hearts of the Koreans were not quick to surrender. But the love of the Japanese believers – un-intimidated by decades of hatred — tore at the Koreans’ emotions: At the cross, at the cross Where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away…
One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. Then another. And then the floodgates holding back a wave of emotion let go. The Koreans met their new Japanese friends in the middle. They clung to each other and wept. Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare.
Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea.
A little while ago, a mom took her children to a restaurant. Her six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As they bowed their heads he said, “God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen.”
Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, a woman remarked, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream! Why, I never! “Hearing this, the boy burst into tears and asked, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?” As his mom held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at the little boy and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.” “Really?” the boy asked. “Cross my heart.”
Then in a theatrical whisper he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”
Naturally, the mother bought her kids ice cream at the end of the meal. Her little boy stared at his for a moment and then did something will forever be remembered…he picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already.
During the Second World War, Corrie Ten Boom and her family showed great courage in helping to rescue Jewish people from the Nazis. Corrie’s involvement with the Dutch underground began with her acts of kindness in giving temporary shelter to her Jewish neighbors who were being driven out of their homes. Soon the word spread, and more and more people came to her home for shelter. As quickly as she would find places for them, more would arrive. She had a false wall constructed in her bedroom behind which people could hide.
After a year and a half, her home developed into the center of an underground ring that reached throughout Holland. Daily, dozens of reports, appeals, and people came in and out of their watch shop. She wondered how long this much activity and the seven Jews that they were hiding would remain a secret.
On February 28, 1944, while Corrie was 48 years old, a man came into the shop and asked Corrie to help him. He stated that he and his wife had been hiding Jews and that she had been arrested. He needed six hundred gilders to bribe a policeman for her freedom. Corrie promised to help. She found out later that he was an informant that had worked with the Nazis from the first day of the occupation. He turned their family in to the Gestapo. Later that day, her home was raided, and Corrie and her family were arrested (their Jewish visitors made it to the secret room in time and later were able to escape to new quarters). Her father died 10 days later from a sickness.
They were arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. Corrie and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where her sister died just before the end of the war in 1945. The rest of her family was never seen again. She spent the rest of her long life spreading the news of God’s forgiveness.
Here is a story of forgiveness, that she once shared. I still think it would have been almost impossible for me to ever have done…
~A Guidepost article from 1972 relates a short story titled “I’m Still Learning to Forgive“ (Corrie TenBoom) ~
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.” “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” …
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each others’ hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
Have you ever been hurt by someone and angry at them? How willing have you been to forgive them? Imagine the hurt and hate that Corrie had and how hard it must have been for her to forgive this man. Let’s use this story as an example of how we can forgive others, even though it may be very difficult, and make ourselves better people because of it.