Every Life Has A Message

Every life has a message – whether a person realizes it or not. Some “Life Messages” speak of selfishness or self-indulgence while others speak of lavish generosity and love for others.

I remember some years ago reading an article about a wealthy man who spent his life accumulating expensive “toys” from exotic cars and motorcycles to exquisite homes in various “paradise-like” locations. A quote that he was famous for repeating during his lifetime was printed in the newspaper that reported his death. It went something like this – “He who dies with the most toys - wins!” You could say that became his final life message to the world.

I had occasion to think deeply about this truth that every life has a message for the world – when I had to prepare a Eulogy for the Memorial service of a lady from our church. I will simply call her Grandma Joan. She was 91 years old when she graduated to her heavenly home. My husband and I had known her for just over twenty years, and during her faithful attendance over those two decades, she had become the unofficial “Grandma” of our church.

It was almost 10 years ago that Grandma Joan came to the ministry office and sat with us and said, “I need to tell you something that I have told very few people. I need to get it off my mind and have you pray for me, because it has tormented me for so many years.” With that, she began to tell us this story.

She was born in blue collar town in New Jersey and was the youngest child of immigrant parents from Poland. It was a turbulent household as her father had a terrible temper and was a drinker. It was 1939, and Joan was 11 years old. On this particular Saturday morning in April, Joan’s father gave her a quarter and told her to go down the street to the local movie theater and watch the Saturday matinee. Joan was thrilled as this was an unusual moment of generosity for the otherwise angry man. She skipped down the street to watch that matinee.

While she sat in that theater watching the movie, she was suddenly seized with a terrible fright as if something horrible had just happened. She got up in the middle of the matinee and ran home. What she found when she got there, would be etched in her memories for the next 70 years.

Her father had taken a gun and murdered her mother. Then he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. 11-year-old Joan found that horrible scene.

Sitting in our office recounting that traumatic story, Joan asked us for help in praying to forgive her father. At that time, she was more than 80 years old.

How can a person forgive an offense that rises to the level of that trauma? No human heart can forgive without the help of God. Our natural reaction is to justify holding unforgiveness in our heart based on the severity of the offense and the intensity of the hurt inflicted by the perpetrator. It sounds perfectly reasonable to our mortal minds. It also feels like we are letting the person off “scot-free” or saying their actions were somehow justifiable if we forgive some particularly wicked action. But the truth is, the one who forgives receives the benefit of emotional freedom. The choice to forgive cuts the chain that links the offended person to the offender. Then the perpetrator is left in the hands of God – who is a righteous judge.

Grandma Joan had come to personally know God’s forgiveness for her own failings in life – she knew she was not perfect and needed a savior. She also believed God was powerful enough to give her the grace to forgive her father for the murder of her mother…as well as the grace to forgive her mother for not protecting her from the abusive anger of her father. Together we prayed and she received that much needed grace from God to forgive her parents.

You may be reading this thinking… “I could never forgive that…”

Yet I am writing this to tell you that Grandma Joan’s LIFE MESSAGE is THERE IS POWER AVAILABLE FROM GOD TO FORGIVE ANY AND EVERY OFFENSE THAT HAS BEEN COMMITTED AGAINST YOU. Her life stands as a testimony to that truth.

What is your life speaking to others? What message will it leave for the world when you are gone?