Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forgiveness opens the door to new life.

Last night Oprah's Lifeclass was live from Toronto, Canada. The show topic was on Forgiveness and as the topic was introduced a few clips from our original appearance on The Oprah Show was aired. We had been notified and in contact with a producer from the show last week. We talked about how forgiveness has impacted our lives. We talked about some of the issues that we will live with forever- especially in regard to Wyndham. Seeing pieces of our story and thinking about how that was April of 2002- a full ten years ago- and yet the message is still one that is so relevent today for us and for so many other people who have been hurt in their lives.

I have learned so many things through the events of the past ten years and I find it most amazing that Chip and I have been able to stay together and as humbly as I can put this, I might add that we have grown and flourished and lived very full lives since our incident occured. I have written about it in previous posts that I still find it crazy that we didn't just pull the window blinds of lour lives shut and let the world pass us by. There were days and months in those early stages of our grief and pain that that is exactly what we felt like and wanted nothing more to do. Especially when the events of 9/11 happened just weeks after we had left the Hurley Hospital ICU with Wyndham and were trying to heal from our physical wounds and injuries. It just felt overwhelming that the world could be so full of hurt and death and pain and with a feeling of darkness over much of our days. I remember sitting on the egde of my bed with pain shooting through my neck, back and legs even before my feet touched the ground. I would sit for a moment of two and let the reailty of what had happened to us and so many others start to sink in. And honestly, some days it didn't seem like it would ever matter for me to leave my bed. It felt safer and I really felt like the world had nothing more to offer me. All I sensed was pain and hurt...and to take a step out of bed caused even more pain. I seemed as though the world we had once known and laughed in and loved in and cared about was no where to be found.

Knowing that Teagan would never come bounding across the room and throw her arms around me for a big hug, and seeing Brock's pain from her loss and his own physical issues as he tried to recover on top of Wyndham's major life set-backs, well it just seemed to be a whole new, broken, hurting world that I wanted to close my eyes and see it all go away.

Thankfully, and the only one I credit for giving me eyes to see and a heart to believe that there was something in our new dark world worth fighting for was God. I know several people who don't believe in God. I know several people who think He is just a nice idea, or they wonder if He really could exist, but they have never had to actually rely on Him or need Him for anything in their lives. But for me, for Chip, for our family, He was our everything. God made Himself known through things like a double-rainbow outside of my car window on the way to the hospital as I headed to Flint, MI while the rest of my family members were being airlifted there one by one. He made Himself known in the peace that flooded Chip's heart and soul and he undeniably felt Teagan hugging him, just moments after she died. He hadn't even been told she was gone- but at that time he felt the warmth of her arms hugging him and her small voice saying, "Daddy, it's going to be okay."

God showed up in the way our bodies were able to heal and especially so in Wyndham's tiny body. We had doctors tell us she would never survive her shunt surgery- but that they had to go ahead and perform it because without it she would die too. So the option was she would die either way, but they wanted to at least try their last resort. Once out of surgery, and much to their surprise, she was opening her eyes and looking at us within a couple of hours. They told us it would be at least a day before they even knew if she would come out of the sedation enough to be alert.

God was there.

I know some people have a hard time believing in something that cannot be seen. But in spite of never seeing Him or His hands at work, we have FELT His presence, His healing, His peace and His comfort in ways that cannot be explained. He has been a strength for us and has shown us the path toward healing and even Joy in life again. He has been faithful to provide us the grace to accept what happened to us and the ability to extend forgiveness for the offenses against us too. He has been the one to lead us through our darkness and back into the light.

In talking about the show topic and discussing where we are at now, my heart and mind have been thinking about just how amazing it is that we did choose {although I believe God helped guide our hearts and response of forgiveness} the path of forgiveness and it is so obvious to me that it changed the way we were able to live as a result.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that forgiveness allowed Chip and I to find joy, happiness, laughter the ability to see goodness in our dark world once again. Forgiveness toward Cindy and what she did that fateful day allowed us to live beyond that moment and not live a life of bitterness and inner pain. I truly believe that had we not both claimed forgiveness toward her and her actions, that we never would have stayed together and weathered the storm of grief and the ongoing life challenges that her actions have left us with for the rest of our lives. I know I would have allowed the wall of hurt to keep Chip out and I would have walled him off with the rest of the world. I would have chose to hold onto the pain and grief in a way that would have closed my heart off to feeling love again. Bitterness would have taken full root and as it would have grown and filled my heart I would have turned my back on the ability to smile and my world would have never felt the warmth of light.

I know full well that choosing the path of forgiveness ultimately defined the course of our lives for the better- and it opened the door for new life to happen again. Chip and I will tell you that choosing to forgive didn't happen to us both in the same way. But we would also tell you that choosing forgiveness was the best way for both of us. Without it we never would have found love in each other again. Our ability to say the words and live them to be true actually made it possible for us to bring Bella and Ava and Crew and Teague into our hearts and lives. They are real life gifts and blessings born out of our ability to choose forgiveness and love again. They are reminders to me each day that forgiveness DOES lead to beautiful things- even as miraculous as new birth- new life.

Forgiveness released us from the hold our pain had on us- physically, mentally and emotionally. I believe that if we had held onto the reality of how unfair what happened to us truly was, we would have let that affect our ability to heal. What I mean by that is that I know I would have not driven Wyndham to therapy/rehabilitation as often as we have had to do for 10 years. I would have used my hurt and the wrong done to us to justify my wallowing in pity and that is just one way it would have manifested itself. Forgiveness has given us a freedom to define ourselves and find new joys and happiness in life, rather than letting our hurt be the focus of all our days. We have certainly never forgotten what happened to us or to Teagan or to Peggy, nor have we ever given Cindy and excuse for her actions that day. But that one day has not been the central focus of our lives since then. It has affected us and will forever affect us- but it doesn't define us. I don't think that people see us out and about in our daily lives and think to themselves, "oh, those sad, heartbroken people are the family from that Old Depot tragedy". No, I think that thankfully and to God be all the credit, that most of the time people would be hard-pressed to look at us and see the hurt and things we have lived through. Most of the time we 'look pretty normal'. =) And I say that meaning we are just as crazy as the next family of 6 kids eating out or going to church, as you see in the picture above. We yell at our kids to hurry up and pick up and get to bed and be nice to each other, yes. We also laugh together and celebrate Coke Float Day together and we take pictures of blowing bubbles and eating cake and we go to the circus and we bring Wyndham to and from countless therapy appointments and to doctor visits and we watch SpongeBob together and we eat pizza and we go to the library and we dress up and hug each other and joke together and sing and we have dreams for the future too. We LIVE! We live beyond the walls of our home. We live with the windows open and the light shines in and we breathe fresh air and we dance in the rain from time to time too.

Forgiveness has enlarged our lives. It has made me want to see beauty in life again. It has given us Hope for the future. It has shown us how lucky we are in spite of everything. It has made a way for us to live through our hurts and beyond them too. I do not take credit for the ability to forgive. It comes only through the Him who has forgiven me. He has first given me life, and through His life I have been made free. Forgiveness has never been about Chip or me or our ability to say "we forgive you" to Cindy. But it has been about realizing what Christ did for us, recognizing that we did nothing to earn His love and forgiveness, and out of that we have accepted that we now have the ability and the command from Him to love others as we have been loved.

When you truly understand that forgiveness comes from Him and it is a free gift- sharing it with others is actually an easy decision. It's not easy to do. But it is the obvious and right thing to do. In the end, it changes everything. It changes everything for the better.


Adrienne said...

I love, "Forgiveness is not a temporary act but a permanent attitude." MLK

Melissa @ a time for everything said...

So beautiful, Jody. This will be a post I share when I come across someone who desperately needs hope. The real Hope.

Lee said...

What a beautiful reflection on the power of forgiveness, and what an amazing testimony to the grace and love of our God! =)

SingerMamaMelody said...

I needed to read this today Jody. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with forgiveness. I'm having a hard time with some areas in life where I need to claim forgiveness. I haven't written on here in awhile, but finally signed up to follow your blog after reading it for years. :) I'm really looking forward to meeting you in June at BEVY.