Race to Forgiveness
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Psalm 103:8-12 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and
abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he
keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our
sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the
heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward
those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does
he remove our transgressions from us.
It was the worst day of my life. Oct. 28, 2011, the day my cousin Bill, 56 years old, was so overcome with sadness after losing his wife to cancer the previous month, that he took his own life. Bill committed suicide.
The months following, my family, church family, friends, and I struggled with his death. We endlessly prayed to God to lead us through this incredibly painful time as we mourned the loss of someone so precious to us all.
The spring 2012 a church member learned of a suicide awareness and prevention 5k run-walk in a nearby town, and inquired if church friends in our small Brethren church would be interested in participating in memory of our beloved Bill. She was overwhelmed by the response as 47 church members and friends of Bill signed up to participate and contribute to this cause that affected us so deeply now. I was one of those 47.
I practiced for months, pushing my body into more athletic condition; sometimes running or walking 14 to 16 miles during a week. As a 55 year old, I had some days that were painful and tiring. I wanted to run the race for Bill; for the memories I’ll never get to make with him, for the many bear hugs now missing, for his sweet smile I’ll never see again.
Race day came. The small town of Dunkerton, Iowa had an astonishing 1,000 people signed up to participate in the 5k; doubling the town’s population. This was a testament to the many others still struggling with loss and pain of loved ones gone. Our group wore buttons showing Bill’s smiling face, pinned on our t-shirts, our tribute to him.
As we ran, I noticed other visual displays and reminders of loved ones lost to suicide. Some had a name written on their shirt, angel wings printed on a shirt, and several groups of runners had matching t-shirts with large photos of their loved one. Pictures. Stories. All of lives cut short.
My son and daughter ran the race at my side, but we were not alone. As we ran, I felt the Holy Spirit moving within us, bringing Bill’s presence near us too. It was as if Bill ran every step of the way with me. Bill was also beside me; encouraging me, cheering for me, healing me.
The race progressed as we followed the looped course with the runners heading toward the finish line, meeting the walkers still along the middle of the route going the opposite direction. I raised my hand up, index finger pointing to heaven and friends could see my wristband with ‘Bill’ written on it. Friends shouted encouragement: “Keep going”, “You’re doing good”, and “Do it for Bill!”
As we neared the finish line, my energy nearly gone, my legs heavy as lead; God spoke to me, telling me keep going; you CAN make it, you MUST make it, you WILL make it!
Then, with Bill’s presence near me, I felt God tell me to forgive. I needed to forgive Bill, just as God had forgiven Bill. Forgiving him for the sudden way he left us. Forgiving him for the hurt and pain he caused us. Forgiving him because he will not be here on this earth anymore with us. FORGIVE HIM!
I crossed the finish line, tears in my eyes and forgiveness in my heart. I love my cousin Bill, and together with God’s blessing, we won a third place medal, a medal that is my proud symbol of what Bill and I achieved on the race to forgiveness.
PRAYER: Dear God – help us to have forgiving hearts. May we love others as you love us, without judging or condemning. Amen.
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