Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There's Still a Remnant

A powerful, heartwarming, and true redemption story recently passed my desk.  It is actually fairly well known.  In fact, the Christian song writer, Matthew West, wrote a song called, Forgiveness, in honor of the remarkable woman whose story it is (check it out on YouTube).  It just goes to show I need to get out of my library more often.

If you already know the story, stay with me as I briefly review what happened for the rest of my readers who, as I, have been out of the loop.

Renee, a mother of twin daughters lost one of them in a car crash in Florida.  A twenty four year old man named, Eric, was drunk and rammed into the girl's car killing both the girl and her friend. Grimly, it is an all too common fate in this world.  I can't possibly know what it must be like to lose a child.  I try to think of the worst thing that ever happened to me and multiply it by a thousand, but I fear the pain I manage to conjure up falls way short of what Renee must have felt, and still feels.

Eric was arrested, tried, and sentenced to twenty two years.  It would seem all that was left for Renee to do was to pick up the pieces as best she could, and attempt to cope with unfathomable grief she was sure to carry the rest of her life.

But the story didn't end there.  Renee kept the mangled car, put it on a trailer, and carted it around to high schools as a prop for her to use as she lectured on the evils of drinking and driving.

Renee soon realized, though, she was harboring an unforgiving heart; so she began visiting Eric in prison.  She forgave him, and Eric, overwhelmed by such mercy when he couldn't even forgive himself, turned to Christ.  After gaining permission from the authorities, Eric began accompanying Renee on her lecture tours.  No longer was the message only about drunk driving, but a powerful witness to the healing impact of forgiveness.  Eric has since become like a son to Renee and her husband, and a brother to their two other children.  As a final gesture of restoration, Renee petitioned the court to have Eric's sentence reduced to eleven years so he can start his life anew.  I understand Eric is due to be released this month.

Wow!  Renee certainly knows who her King is, and knows what it means to dwell in His kingdom. If you listen to her, you will discover she is quick to deflect the story away from herself to God.  Renee gives God all the glory for this amazing redemption story.

Much can be said, and has been said about forgiveness using Renee's story.  But it is also an excellent illustration of true justice.

Renee could have, as many mothers have done in identical situations, demanded Eric's head on a platter.  And she could have easily validated her request on the basis of justice: an eye for an eye.... And most people would have supported her.  But Renee didn't pursue this natural reaction.  Instead, she clearly stepped back from her emotions long enough to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within her teach her something about true justice--that is, the justice of the Kingdom of God.

Think about it.  Eye for an eye, what we call distributive justice--everyone gets their due--doesn't lead to a just state--the right order of things.  If Eric's life had been taken in retribution for the loss of Renee's daughter's life, we would all end up where we started: the chaos--disorder--of death, where guilt and bitterness rule.

However, by extending mercy to Eric as Renee so lovingly did out of loving obedience to Jesus her Lord, King, Master, both her daughter's life and Eric's were redeemed. Renee's mercy snatched life from death, with the result of a movement from injustice to justice.  Placing her grief, anger, hurt, and bitterness at the feet of Jesus the Christ, restored the relationships between the players and God and between the players and players, all to the glory of God.

Of course, Eric might have chosen to reject Renee's outreach of mercy, or exploit it, but such actions would have been his responsibility, alone.  I cannot say if Renee considered this possibility when she first reached out to Eric.  The fact she did reach out to him in mercy, tells me she fully trusted God to bring true and final justice to the situation--regardless of the outcome.  And such trust on her part is not mindless, because true justice can only be administered in a given matter by someone who knows everything--past, present, future--of the circumstances, contexts, and lives involved.  Only God has such perfect insight, so only God can be perfectly just.

I rejoice, and praise God upon hearing accounts of Christians such as Renee; because it is the still, small voice of God telling us in a murky, dark, and noisy world what He told the prophet Elijah in similar circumstances: "I still have a remnant who hasn't bowed to Baal."



sara kokko said...

can i just say i LOVE this post?
and then can i just say that i LOVE you (forever +1)??? ...because i do.