A Forgiving Heart

I don’t know about you but I certainly think that forgiveness is a hard thing to do: to be kind to someone who was mean or rude to you, and move on as if nothing happened. It definitely takes a brave person to do that.

I absolutely love the Bible. It’s my greatest source of inspiration. As I reflected to forgiveness, the story of a man called David came to mind. David was Jesse’s youngest of eight sons. While his three oldest brothers went to war, David tended his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. He also served Saul, the then King of Israel. God’s anointing was on David; but the king Saul rejected the commandment of the Lord and turned his back from following God. Eventually, Saul plotted with his servants and son to kill David; fortunately, Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s best friend and he revealed the plan to him. David fled for his life.

But one day, David got a chance to possibly revenge on Saul. Actually, not only once but multiple times.

David Spares Saul

7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. 8 Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” 9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” 12 So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them. (1 Samuel 26: 7-12 ESV)

Stephen Is Seized & Stoned

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6: 8-15 ESV)

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 8: 54-60 ESV).

The Crucifixion

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 26-43 ESV)

It is extremely heart breaking to see how much injustice is all around these days. Watching the news channels make you sick to the stomach sometime, and you often wonder why such animosity happen. If I started to number them, I would run out of space: racism, segregation, rights suppression, unfair judgement, hatred, blood shedding of innocent lives, lies, abuse, power misuse, discrimination, selfishness and many more.

Just like Paul urged Timothy in his letter: “3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3: 3-5

Now let’s ask ourselves those questions:

– Would I want everyone I know to treat me with respect?
– If someone hurt me, would I want them to apologize to me and change their behavior?
– How do I like to feel loved and cared for?
– Do I like it when people pay attention to my needs and requests?

Now, let’s take the example of David, Stephen or Jesus. If you were faced with what happened to either of them, would you be able to forgive? It’s not easy, but if we treated others the same way we want to be treated, the world would be different. When I see/face injustice, I am consoled by knowing that there is a God who sits on the throne of Justice and He is full of Love and Grace. He sees everything, and will judge every individual, alive or dead, and hold each one accountable of their actions.

If today, you were given an open opportunity to avenge someone who wronged you, would you be able to, instead,choose forgiveness?

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” — Maya Angelou

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” ~ Mitch Albom

It still bothers me sometime when I meet people who say that they aren’t really that close to their parents or siblings. It also breaks my heart when I read or hear stories about abandoned children by abusive or drug addicted parents and taken away by social services. I understand that some people grow apart; but it hurts because ultimately, children have to pay the price, when indeed they did not even ask to be born. In my home country Rwanda, you are normally expected to stay in touch with everyone who is related to you by blood, all the way to your extended family.

My Mom Colette was a mother who would do whatever it takes to be there for me and my siblings. If she ever had a problem, although being the second children (in a family of 6) and the oldest girl, I never learned or knew about it. She perhaps kept the pain or trouble to herself, and we, children never realized it. If my parents ever had a fight, I never found out. In the nutshell, our world was a paradise. We were given everything they could afford, and if they struggled in any way, we never learned the details.

When I was growing up, it was uncommon for parents to be emotional in front of their children. My parents never told me that they loved me; it’s still the same in many families in Rwanda. Regardless, I knew that they loved me so deeply. While gifts exchanging was uncommon, whenever we achieved a milestone in our lives (doing well in school, learning how to do chores at home), we would get small prizes. Learning how to do some chores was a big deal, particularly because even to this day, many families can afford housemaids/nannies/helpers. When I was little, we had 2-3 workers around the house, and they lived with us.

My Lovely Mother, in 1976, shortly before her wedding.

My Mom, my inspiration! Weeks after her engagement to my Dad (Late 70s)

I was spoiled pretty much. I knew how to do just a few things. It was the same for all my siblings. No wonder why from the day the genocide against the Tutsi began in Rwanda (April 7th,1994) to the day she surrendered her final breath, this was my brave mother’s daily prayer: her entire family to die all together in a painless, fastest death possible. I don’t remember if she prayed to be shot instead of being cut into pieces, but I know that her prayer was answered differently, 17 days later (April 24th,1994). Perhaps she thought, and I am entirely sure, that none of her children would be able to survive on their own. She did not have to explain.

Dear Mommy, not only that four of us survived, we also rose above the storms. The God you loved and thought us to pray, Has been everything we ever need! We miss you with deep sorrow but we know that God loved you more than we did, and wanted you by His side. All your surviving children truly praise Him with gratitude! You dwell in heavenly eternal peace. We will finish what you started!

My mother was a selfless mother, everything to us, and an inspiration. She loved and treated everyone like a family, even those who didn’t like our family. Actually, one of my mother’s sisters-in-law had a dream in 1993. In it, a tragedy was coming to Rwanda where she saw many people getting killed. As she was about to die, she prayed that my mother would survive. In the dream, she was convinced that if my mother survived, that she would raise my aunt’s children as her own. That’s the caliber of a mother I am proud to call a woman who brought me into this life! Although I only got to know her for a few years, she remains my hero and role model, all my life!

After the genocide against the Tutsi ended, I vowed that I would not call anyone mom or dad ever again. I actually despised hearing some fortunate classmates at my high school bragging about their parents. I was extremely bitter. I kept my word though, until August 2008 when I met the most amazing woman at a mutual friend’s dinner, in Rochester, New York. Her name is Glori Lovall. Few months later, she gave me the greatest possible honor: to call her my MOM. To make things even better, she’s only two years younger than my mother Colette would be. For the first time since I lost my parents, someone called me “daughter.” I rejoice everyday!

Maman et moi. Mars 2014

My Mom & I on my birthday: March 2014

In a few words, I raised myself. I never had a role model, or just someone to give me an advice on how things work. It’s ironic how I still struggle to adjust to a life where my new Mom tells me things, and when it exactly turns out as she told me, she says: “may be you should start listening to your mother”. Or something like reminding me to eat, visit some people, print out directions to get to places even when I have both a smartphone and a regular GPS, simple things like that. I can’t imagine a life without hers in mine. I am truly humbled by God’s wonders.

One small town in upstate New York has captured my heart forever! The kind of feeling that overwhelms my soul with joy each time I set my foot on the grounds of its airport cannot be expressed in words!

When I go back home, my new home in Rochester, my Mom always has a calendar of things I would do while there: visiting friends, family and friends coming over to see me etc. I don’t set the alarm clock when I am home. She exactly knows how much time it takes me to get ready. She knocks at my door until she hears my response because she knows how much I love my sleep. She cooks the best food and I eat so much when I am home. My Mom flies in to see me every year around my birthday! She is exceptional!

I know my mother would have done exactly the same. Glori is full of life and very loving. Each day that passes, I’m amazed by how my Mom and I find things we have in common, from physical aspects to life’s passions. It blows my mind, and brings me down to my knees before the Lord. From Colette’s ashes, God blessed me with a new mother, an incredible one!

If your Mom is incredible and still alive, hug her today and tell her that she means the world to you. If she is in heaven with God, treasure your memories of her. Write it down and do never stop talking about her. Colette is my hero, and she is alive as long as I shall live, and beyond. Glori is my gift from heaven, and Jesus’ love on display in my life.

I’m forever thankful to both of them, but more importantly, I praise GOD who loved me so much and honored me with two most amazing Mothers in my life! I am BLESSED!