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Conflicted

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I had an interesting email exchange a few days ago. It began with a suggestion that I send Ali's father a birthday card with a note letting him know that I forgive him.

Hmm. That's a very forward thinking request I thought. "May I suggest to you that you send someone that has ruined your family and inflicted crippling injuries on your granddaughter happy birthday wishes with a short forgiveness note. You and he will be so happy if you do." To err is human, to forgive is divine...

Many of my friends ask me what I want to do the man that set all these things in motion. Well, the answer to that question is different on different days. Sometimes I drive around Eureka and say to myself, "Self, what are you doing here?" I feel lost and out of place. Other time I feel glad to be in the town where I grew up. Sometimes Ali cries and is an unbelievable amount of work. I feel so sad and worry that she'll not get better. But most of the time, I thank God that I get to be a daddy again no matter how things turn out in Ali's life. I just stare at her and realize that this little girl will have me tightly wrapped around her little finger. She already does. Sometimes, I'm by myself and I feel so disoriented and like I'm in a prison of sorts; definitely not living a life I'd choose. So let me put it the most positive way I can: sometimes I feel a little forgiving and some days I feel less.

And then I think, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

So I want to forgive. I want to stand ready to forgive anyone that wrongs me.

But my theology and Jesus' teachings come in direct conflict with the way I feel and what makes sense to me.

Here's what I wrote in one email:

It would be inappropriate to extend forgiveness to somebody that has not asked for it or shown any signs of repentance. Our lives are forever altered because of this young man. We've had to move, we're separated from our kids, my daughter is a total wreck, and we've lost everything that has been home to us. This was all set in motion by this young man.

He doesn't acknowledge that he almost killed Ali. His lawyers downplay his wrong doing while implicating my daughter. This is not the behavior of someone that wants forgiveness. This is denial of wrong doing and taking responsibility for Ali's crippling injuries. When he asks us for forgiveness, we'll consider forgiving. Unaccepted or unrequested forgiveness is misapplied when there is no repentance. Thus, your request is inappropriate. (I changed the exact wording a little for our privacy)


I guess I don't know, for sure, if I'm right. I pray for the person that hurt Ali and brought so much change into our lives. Ultimately, the course of our lives is, has been, and always will be in the hands of the Lord. I honestly believe that we'll look back on this whole thing and totally recognize God's providence in our lives before, during, and after these events. And I don't wish the California penal system on anyone. Honestly. I don't. I just want Ali to get better, the adoption to go smoothly, I want my daughter to be healed emotionally and spiritually, and I want Paul to find forgiveness and newness of life in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I stand ready to forgive. I pray that someday I can meet him face to face and extend the forgiveness he wants and needs. Until that happens, I'll pray for the Lord's protection and guidance in his life. I hope the action of praying will prepare me for the action of forgiving.

21 comments:

bishopdave said...

Biblically speaking, it seems the Lord has a lot of trouble with those who won't confess. Cain wouldn't fess up, admit his need, even before killing his bro. As long as Ali's dad is in denial, there is, if we can say this without starting debate, a denial of grace. If we confess our sins.... Brian, I believe you will find the grace and strength to forgive when he is ready to ask for it, when he realizes he needs it. Hang in there.

Jody said...

I am praying that Paul will come to a point of brokenness which will lead him to the Lord and to seek forgiveness. I pray for your family too that when that moment comes, you will find yourselves (by the grace of God) able and willing to forgive him. It's a journey for both sides. I think praying (as you do) for Paul is an unbelievably huge step. Furthermore, just as God stands ready to forgive us when we come with a repentant heart, I believe that you and Susan can say that if Paul came to you today, broken over his sin and with an attitude of humility, Holy Spirit in you two would rise up and fill your hearts with true forgiveness.
I John 1:8-10
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."

michele p said...

This reminds me of an Angel Tree phone call I made several years ago.
I was calling a care giver to make sure they were OK with the child they were caring for receiving Christmas gifts from their father who was in prison. The woman answered and said to me, "He shot my daughter, you know." This woman was caring for her grandson because her son-in-law had killed her daughter. Now the son-in-law was going to chruch in prison and wanted to send a Christams gift to his child. This was the first contact the son in law had attempted.
I was speechless, but the Holy Spirit interceded and gave me the words to say to this woman. She was a Christian and through the power of Jesus Christ was able to forgive this man on the phone that day and she allowed her grandson to receive the gift. Her forgiveness made an unbelievable impact on me.

Bryon Mondok said...

michele...
thanks for that.

luann said...

It's so hard to know what one would do until they are in that position. Just remember that forgiveness is not only for Paul, it's to release you as well from those bad feelings inside. And to forgive in that way does not necessarily require repentance or confession.
Having said that, I don't know if I could do it, so I will just keep praying for you.

Sam said...

Pastor Dan preached one of the most memorable messages that I have ever heard on forgiveness about 2 1/2 years ago. It is called "Letting go and moving on" and it is on 2 Samuel 1. That sermon has helped me in so many situations and I think that it will help you too. The biggest thing, as you say, is just praying. You know it, just put it into action and rest in God's faithfulness and unconditional love that will transform your life. I'll be praying for you and your family.

art/terrorist said...

i told paul its not my forgiveness nor yours that he needs to seek.

Bryon Mondok said...

art/terrorist:
true enough... psalm 51:4 says 'against You only have i sinned...'

but the thoughts i've expressed here are from my very limited and earthly perspective...

thanks for your comments, though.

Vicki Small said...

Bryon, I re-established contact with my dad after more than 20 years of silence. Almost immediately, he began pressing me to send him a letter detailing the ways in which he had hurt me, so that we could get it all out and deal with it. It took me a while, but I did it. Make that, over-did it. I got it all in there, and it was overwhelming. His response was a lot of denial and minimizing ("Well, I know I didn't do anything to you as bad as what was done to me by my parents." True, and beside the point).

I maintained for several more years that I could not and would not forgive him until he took responsibility for all that he had done to hurt me. And then...

One Sunday morning (before I found my church home), I had Dr. Schuller on TV while I ate breakfast. He was talking about forgiveness and expressing the very same position on it that I held to. Then he said, "But one day, while reading in Matthew, I read where Jesus cried out on the cross, "Father, forgive them! They know. not. what. they. do." (Excessive punctuation is mine, the way it hit me.)

My father did not know how he was hurting me, not really. Did Paul really know what he was doing to Ali, and by extension to all of you? Probably not. But, my friend in Christ, I really understand holding back until he accepts responsibility. (I really understand if you have times when you want to punish him, even.) And truly, none of us can enjoy or appreciate God's forgiveness until we humble ourselves.

It's a sticky wicket, all around. I join those who have already said, when you need it, the grace to forgive will be there. I pray that that time will come, for you and Susan, for Paul. And I pray for the healing Charity needs, on all levels.

Bryon Mondok said...

Vicki:

thanks for your comments. what you said are things i've given some thought to and i am praying this through.

as a pastor, i've counseled families through restorations like you described. i've always said that relationships with each other matter more to God than the junk we've done to each other out of selfishness or revenge.

that's why i'm conflicted. forgiveness is over flowing family member to family member in the mondok house. i'm personally motivated to forgive family. i want an on-going, growing relationship with family.

but i don't have the same motivation with paul. i don't want to be his friend. i never want him to see allie. i don't want my daughter talking to him. i don't want to move forward with him.

but i rarely get things the way i want them. and since i believe God is in charge and He's brought this whole thing to my doorstep, the reality is He may want me to have a change of heart. i'll allow Him to do that. i think it's a process, though. i'm His servant and i'll do what needs to be done.

Kat said...

Okay, my two cents: I think you and your family are entitled to be very, very angry. Even given that you all love the Lord, you are still allowed to be angry at all that has happened. It really irritates me when folk jump in and say "forgive" when it hasn't been that long ago that this sweet little girl got nearly shaken to death. Without knowing you personally, Bryon, I'm sure that if YOU decide to "forgive" this animal (sorry), you'll KNOW when you're ready. You all are incredibly wonderful people who I hold in high esteem. In my humble opinion, you're already doing what God wants you to do!
Love, Kat

Bryon Mondok said...

kat:
thanks for the comments and for havin' my back. i appreciate all the comments here because i know that everyone taking the time is praying for us and wants the best for us in the long run.

i'm getting inspired for another post on the topic of forgiveness :)

Vicki Small said...

One more thought from me on forgiveness: I have forgiven my dad more times than I can count, over the years. I realize that, when Christ forgives us, it's done. Period, end of report. But I'm not Christ. I have to go back again and again, and I have to pray that God will let His forgiveness flow through me, when I have absolutely none of my own.

And in between those times come moments of real anger, all over again. That doesn't mean I'm insincere, when I forgive; it means I'm conflicted, too.

We do the best we can, and I fall back, again, on what so many others have said: When you need it, the grace will be there.

Okay, yet another thought: Kat is right that you guys have every "right" to be really, really angry. But...you know this...living in that anger hurts you, saps you of the energy you need to deal with the realities of your lives. Good reason for all of us to continue praying for God's peace, strength, grace and mercy to engulf you and fill you up. In Jesus' name.

Kat said...

Vicky, when I mentioned the "right" to be angry there was NO where in that where I mentioned "living" in that anger. Dealing with anger is a process...a healing process at that. Beating ones self up for feeling anger is way counterproductive and usually makes this worse. It can also cause one to lose one's faith. Being 'pushed' or guilt tripped into 'forgiving' someone is not productive and quite frankly is destructive, in my opinion.

Vicki Small said...

Kat, I'm sorry you took offense at what I said. I did not intend to suggest that you had mentioned "living" in anger. That was part of my own thought process. I've dealt with enough of my own anger to understand that it is a process and, dealt with properly, is healing. Nowhere did I suggest that Bryon ought to be beating himself up for feeling angry, and I haven't read anyone else's comments to suggest that. Nor have I read anyone's comments "pushing" or "guilt tripping" him into forgiving Ali's father. I have enough confidence in Bryon's maturity, both emotionally and spiritually, to believe that he has not read any of us as trying to "guilt" him into forgiving. I expect everyone who has been following this saga is well aware that that does not work and is counterproductive, which would be one very good reason no one has tried it, in my opinion.

Bryon, if I am wrong about how my own comments and references to forgiving Paul have struck you, if you have felt that I was "guilting" you or condemning you for not forgiving him, then I beg your forgiveness of me. At no time have I intended that.

I do think we are all responsible for encouraging (not guilting, please) one another to Christ-likeness, knowing all that while that every one of us is doing the best he or she can, at any given time. And we are all broken.

Kat said...

Vicki, I am a person of strong opinions and I stated them. I'm sorry you felt I was "taking offense". I was not. I did not accuse you personally of guilt tripping anyone. In my walk with the Lord and referring to Bryon's original post, I took issue with that. I was not singling you out. I'm sorry if it seemed that way.
Just that I've heard pastors practically order rape vicims and other violent crime victims to forgive their attackers and belittle them when they don't. Also inferred or directly stated is that God had a 'reason' in such horrible things happening. I believe that God makes good what satan meant for evil, but I do not for one second believe that God directed someone to do the heinous act(s).

Bryon Mondok said...

awesome discussion you guys. obviously, i'm not by myself in this place of conflictedness. i appreciate your thoughts and dialogue...

Vicki Small said...

Kat, I'm with you in resisting the idea that God has a "reason" for horrible things that happen. Of course, there is the history of Job, but the idea there was to test a perfect, upright man. I am none of those!

But, as you indicated, I am learning to look for the good that God can bring out of horror, when we cooperate with him. All too often, I see that only in hindsight, and I'm trying to look more carefully and cooperate more fully in the *process*, as He works His wonders. How well I do that depends a great deal on how close I am to the horror, trauma or grief.

Kat said...

Again, with all due respect, I still think even in Job's case it was God turning 'lemons into lemonade'. The person (can't call him a 'man') who nearly killed Ali is not God's chosen minister. God is not in the business of battering innocent babies. When battery happens, God uses the situation to bring glory to God, but that's a far cry from being the author of the heinous act. God did not tell me to have an abortion when I became pregnant 24 years ago. I was not chosen by God to get pregnant and then have my baby 'terminated'. I did that and God cleaned up the mess. God intended that I not have sex before marriage. Further, after I became pregnant, God's still small voice said "give life". I chose death and God had to do damage control, heal the hurts and soften hearts. God is always there, even when we chose to go our own way. I am forgiven...no doubt about that, but I'd rather be typing this saying that I chose to walk out of the abortuary before I allowed them to terminate my child's life. I wish that was my testimony.
You're right, God does work His wonders and I see that every day. I am in awe and am grateful with every breath I am privileged to take. I am in awe of God's hand on Ali and family...her story has blessed soooo many. Still, God did not shake that baby!

Kat said...

I felt the need to add one more thing: Charity is in my thoughts and prayers. I pray for healing for her heart, mind, and spirit. I pray for her pain to heal. I pray that she accept the love, forgiveness, and comfort that God has provided for her. I pray God's hand of protection cover her 24/7, that 'no weapon formed against her prospers', that 'every tongue that rises against her in judgement shall be shown to be in the wrong'. She's God's kid. I know she knows that and I pray that she soon feels that right down to her toes.

Eileen Watson said...

Forgiveness is our goal yet it is a journey we must walk through to arrive at as new creatures, every day as He sanctifies us through and through. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus as we proceed on this journey. It is a difficult one but we do not walk it alone. And along the way, I personally have found that praying for the offender keeps one's heart pure and the prayers bind the enemy's power over the emotions. "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you." 1Sam 12:23. Everyday, new reasons spring to mind which justify my unforgiveness, yet I know I must be merciful to those who have caused such pain and devastation. Let us pray for one another to guard our hearts and minds and causes God to bring peace out of chaos.

 

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