Is there room in my heart to forgive the man who killed my family in their prime? Does he deserve my love, my sympathy, or even my consideration? Are there some criteria he must meet before I bestow my forgiveness on him? These are the questions I asked.
I knew within, that I must forgive. As difficult a decision as it was, I reasoned that it must have been an accident. He did not actually mean to hurt my family. It just happened, perhaps by mistake. After all, to err is human. After two or three days of grappling with this issue, I resolved to forgive him. This decision was based on a general view of the Bible that we are to forgive. I thought the issue had been laid to rest.
A few days later, I read in the Lincoln Star daily newspaper of Lincoln, Nebraska, that the young man's blood alcohol level had exceeded the legal limit. I became furious. This was no longer an accident. It was blatant murder, I reasoned. My decision to forgive was shaken. Drinking and driving; how could he be drinking and driving? I had seen so many warnings on TV about driving under the influence of alcohol. The warning apparently was not heeded. He apparently could have cared less. The dangers of drinking and driving meant nothing to him.
Anger welled up inside me. Their deaths could have been avoided. My family could have been alive but for him. His drinking problem had deprived me of my family. His drinking problem had obliterated all the dreams Johnny and I had about our future.
I therefore realized I must forgive this man, I knew I had no choice. I could not offend God nor jeopardize my walk with Him. If I got out of fellowship with Him, to whom would I go for solace? Who would remove my pain? No one else was qualified to comfort me in my dark hours. No one else could remove the pain of my broken heart. I must turn to God, as only He could heal me emotionally. No one else could fill the emptiness within or calm my terrible turmoil. Only God's assurance could bring me true peace. Only His touch could reach into the hard-to-reach recesses of my heart. And He indeed did a good job far beyond my wildest expectations.
I experienced God's promise of peace in a world of tribulation. The Bible became alive to me. I found my resting place in God's Word I did not understand why the accident happened. I still do not. But one thing I do know, God is my Father and whatever may befall me, I am safe in the hollow of His hands. I can count on Him to heal my wounded emotions. He did not fail me.
Forgiving James (the man who took my family from me), was a small price to pay compared with keeping a sound relationship with my God and for the healing I was receiving from His hands.
The wound grew deeper still, perhaps, because the young man did not make any attempt to write to me and tell me that he was sorry. I was not sure if he was repentant for what he did. But on the other hand, I was not sure I really wanted to hear his voice, even if it came with apology. What would it do for me? Would it bring back the dead? Would it remove the pain and the emptiness? It might further infuriate me. In a way, I took shelter in the hope that it might be better if he did not contact me at all. I did not want further pain. I was too fragile emotionally to open up myself to any possibility of pain.
It was not until ten months later that the Lord used my therapist, Beverly Jones, to bring out this unforgiveness in my heart. During counseling, Beverly probed me about my reaction to this man, the one who took my family from me. I tried to convince her that I had truly forgiven him, but she noticed the hollowness of my confession to forgiveness. She asked me probing questions that I answered as truthfully as I could. She noticed that I was apathetic toward him. I did not care about him. I did not care if he was alive or dead. I felt that to think of him was to waste my thoughts. But Beverly is a good counselor. She pointed out that my apathy denoted lack of forgiveness.
At first I argued. I remembered how I had resolved to forgive him two years earlier. I tried to make Beverly see that I had truly forgiven. But she convinced me, by repeating the very words that came out of my mouth, that I was deceiving myself.
Suddenly, as if scales fell from my eyes, I realized that I had been burying the ill feelings; I had not released him. Beverly told me to come to her apartment, where she would counsel me free of charge. Both of us were in the seminary at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, (USA). She was majoring in counseling, while I was majoring in theology. She took me through a process to forgive him. She asked me to release him and let him go. I later learned that the English word "forgive" translated from the Greek, means to let go or release. She told me to follow it up with confession.
And so I began to confess aloud, "James, you are forgiven. I forgive you, in Jesus' name. I forgive you for killing my husband Johnny, I forgive you for killing my first son, Temple, I forgive you for killing my second son Tosan. I forgive you for killing my only daughter, I forgive you. I release you and I let you go."
At first, I did not like the idea. I felt uneasy and indeed reluctant. But I persisted. And, as if by miracle, I began to experience the joy of forgiving others, as Christ has forgiven me. It was as if a burden was removed off my shoulder. I was free. As time went by, the hurt was healed. Yes, I had forgiven him and the pain attached to it was immediately relieved , but it took time for the pain of the loss of my family to go away.
Dr. Tai Ikomi is an author of over 30 books .and a conference speaker. She conducts seminars on the Names of God and forgiveness after forgiving the drunk man who killed her entire family. She is the founder of Forgiveness Discipleship.
Dr. Tai Ikomi
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