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Did you see the video?

On Easter Sunday, a videotaped murder was visible on Facebook for about two hours.  My title, though, is not referencing that video, but recorded interview segments with adult children of the shooting victim.

As anyone would expect, the family is deeply grieved from learning that their 74-year-old father was murdered shortly after their Easter celebration. Interviewed prior to the killer’s suicide two days later, a son expressed that he is angry and hurt and wants the killer to be brought to justice.  A daughter who was given the chance to speak a message to the killer said, “Turn yourself in…when you break the law, there’s a penalty for breaking the law.  And this man broke the law by taking my father’s life.”

What took the news anchor and, I suspect, many people by surprise was the additional statement made by all of the children interviewed, “I forgive him.”  The son who also said, “A boy needs his father, and I’ve lost mine”, went on to say, “I forgive him because we’re all sinners and we need the shed blood of Jesus Christ to save us, and I’m so grateful for that.  Turn yourself in.” A daughter stated that if presented with the opportunity, “God would give me the grace to embrace this man…I would want him to know that even in his worst state, he’s loved, you know, by God.”

How can this be? One said, and the others agreed, that they have no animosity in their hearts, but sadness for a man who was overtaken by evil and sympathy for his family.  This attitude is a testimony to the legacy that the deceased father and grandfather left behind.  As they were growing up, the children were taught by word and example to forgive those who do you wrong.  A daughter admitted that she could not do that now if she didn’t know God as her savior.  Even in this tragedy, she believes that her dad would quote Jesus, saying, “Tonya, forgive them because they know not what they do.” The Godwin family has made the choice to not merely listen to God’s word, but to do it.  They have chosen to live as their father did and, more importantly, to model Jesus.

In a world where evil and pain are prevalent and violence can be instantly viewed by the world via social media and news agencies, one can become fearful and love can grow cold.  Last night, as my husband and I were walking to our vehicle in a parking lot, a white car slowly approached and passed us. We admitted to each other that the thought crossed our minds, “We could be shot.”

But as I watched the interviews with the Godwin children today and considered their sincere words of forgiveness even as they grieve over the sudden and violent death of their dad, I have a sense of happiness for them.  The days ahead will be hard for all of them, but their hearts will be free from hatred and a poisonous desire for revenge.  They know and believe Jesus and are, no doubt, passing along the legacy of their father to his grandchildren. Tonya told the world via CNN, “The thing I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God…how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive.”

The wisest man on earth penned, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) We fear God because he is holy and just, the judge who is “able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).  We love God because he loved us first and gave his son Jesus as a ransom to set us free from sin and death.  When random crimes are committed, we are, as we should be, angered.  Many seek revenge.  However, God, through Jesus, has taught and shown that forgiveness is his way.  His grace makes it possible, and forgiveness is rewarded with a peacefulness that transcends all understanding.  I believe the Godwins are experiencing that peace as they sadly bid their father farewell.

Tragically, the killer gave way to the evil desires that reside in each human heart and came to his ruin. Regarding wisdom, the writer of Proverbs also said, “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.  But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.”  (Proverbs 8:35-36)

I believe that, in an instant, Mr. Godwin left this world of sin and pain and was ushered into the presence of his Lord and Savior.  What a glorious ending to his Easter celebration on earth!  My hope is that the firm faith displayed by his family will inspire many in their city and all over the world to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  Psalm 116:15

You can watch and listen to the Godwins HERE and HERE.

 

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Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares

What’s your greatest fear?   A survey circulating on Facebook asks this question.  Touched by the honest answers I’ve read, I decided to consider my own response.  I’m not tormented by aerophobia, acrophobia, or  arachniphobia (fear of flying, heights, spiders). I’m OK in small spaces and in the dark.  I’m far less afraid of public speaking than most people.  I’ll admit to being a little cynophobic, not wanting dogs to lick me, bite me or knock me down.

Despite four decades of driving without a ticket or accident (except for backing into a parked car in 1992 – fear of lying?), my heart pounds at the prospect of driving in a big city.  Maybe I could do it if it was necessary – maybe.  Currently my husband who likes to be behind the wheel enables me to stay in the passenger seat.  It is a little embarrassing to admit that while we were anticipating his heart surgery, my fear of metro area driving was right up there with my concern for him.   Nevertheless, I wouldn’t call Driving Phobia (no Greek word?!) my greatest fear.

Actually, its things that I have no control over that frighten me more.   At age 9, I learned about SIDS and feared my baby brother would die.  As a young mom, I feared that the loud, low-flying plane would crash into our house.  Hearing that a tire had flown off of a semi and caused a tragic accident made travel more ominous.  None of these freak events occurred, but we all know that bad things happen to all people.

I still remember the neighbor boy coming in my house to tell me that my pet cat, Blackie, was hit by a car.  I can still hear the voice of a dear friend on the phone saying that a classmate had been killed in a crash shortly after our graduation.  And I will never forget the knock on my dorm room door the day Mom came to tell me that Dad had passed from cancer.

So, what is my greatest fear?  I’ve dreaded the possibility that one of our sons could be involved in a tragic accident, and I have worried that it could happen while my husband is out of town working, leaving me to get there and deal with it alone.  That is one of the worst situations I can imagine.

But, you know, I don’t worry as much as I used to, and I can testify that Grace has brought me through many dangers, toils, and snares.  Not only that, but when I’m willing to cast my anxiety on God in thankful prayer, fear is replaced by peace – just like He promised (Philippians 4:6-8).  My biggest challenge may be to overcome the fear of losing the things that I’m so thankful for.  I need to remind myself that things of this life, while important, are temporary.  There is a place and time coming that will not include sadness, pain and death.

But, what if I am required to go through many years without the person who knows me intimately and loves me so well?  Actually, my Lord Jesus answered that question on November 17, 2011, after my husband came through emergency surgery.  That night, as I was thanking God, I asked him, “But what if I had lost him?”  The Lord said to me, “If it had gone the other way, he would be with me and I would still be with you.”  Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  My peace of mind comes when I believe what God has said.

 

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