Last night as I lay down to sleep I thought of my grandfather. Grandpa Jim was a person whose feet I often sat at to hear war stories. They were war stories all focused on the human condition and human character in times of trauma and horrific heartache.
Looking back, I spent many hours at the feet of my beloved grandfather. His storytelling somehow was vivid, and it felt at times like I too could see snippets of actual memory literally pass before my eyes.
He told me of his experience of being a prisoner of war.
He told me of being a kiwi soldier on the run in an enemy land and then being hidden by a God fearing Italian woman and her family. He told me all that is behind this remarkable friendship and kinship between her family and ours even to this day.
Grandpa Jim told me of men in anger and frustration beating another prisoner of war, who in hunger had stolen from the Red Cross parcels of others, just like himself, in their shared prisoner of war hut.
Grandpa Jim talked and shared, and as a small child I listened.
Many, many years later a prayer counsellor asked me, "How do you see God? How do you see God the Father?" My reply was quite easy to find within myself. I replied that I saw God the Father like my grandfather. It was easy to source that image, that sense of who God the Father might be, from amongst the memories of the people I had met along life's journey to that point.
And so, last night as I lay down to sleep my grandfather came to mind yet again. I was thinking back over the day's events and the experience of going to spend time with my dear Muslim friend and her family. I was thinking back over the recent occurrence in my land of origin and the tremendous heartache so many of us who are New Zealanders are feeling. As I drifted to sleep my mind was taken to the experience of being at my grandfather's feet all those many years ago, and to one particular story he so vividly shared with me.
It is hard to be hungry. It is hard to be in a position of powerlessness. It is hard to be couped up and held against your will and people don't always cope well. Hunger can make you do things that when you are not hungry you would never do. It can test you to the point that it can become an obsession and all you start to be consumed by. Hunger can make you sin.
Hunger had caused a fellow prisoner to steal from the very same men he would sleep beside and whom he would not be able to escape from, as they were all commonly imprisoned in the same prisoner of war camp, and all to sleep in the very same hut. There was no way that the risk of being caught out would be avoided. Being found out was highly likely and very highly inevitable. Yet, the act of stealing from the Red Cross food parcels of the other men with him was something he chose to do.
Anger, rage, all manner of emotions could well have risen from deep within his fellow roommates. They were all hungry. They were all suffering. They were all hurting deeply. The act of stealing from them was met with much anger, much frustration, and handed out with firm fist and no doubt boot. The beating painful.
My grandfather for the lifetime that I knew him was a gentle man. I can only imagine that he too was extremely angry, frustated and found the theft hugely appalling. He shared with us as children that a beating of the robber took place and he watched as every other man in the cabin took part. I sat and I listened silently and quietly to my grandfather's telling of this historical and horrible event.
Through the eyes of my grandfather I was led to see an image of the form of a human being lying on a hut floor. Through the eyes of my grandfather I was led to see the end of his own trouser leg and his own boot come to move over and also step towards and rest, still and quiet, against the form and body of this robber, this thief, this individual, who had stolen from others that were just as hungry and hurting and imprisoned as he. My grandfather, the farmer and the boxer held his anger.
Through the eyes and the words of my grandfather I learnt about what it is to be angry, so very, very, very angry, yet be willing to retain control over that very anger.
My grandfather, as so often before and so often after, taught me a great deal sitting on a footstool at his feet. He showed me often via his storytelling during his lifetime, that in the worst and most appalling of times human character can sway and go several ways. Grandpa Jim could led me down paths of learning with his storytelling that would have an impact for a lifetime and beyond, as in turn I too go on at times to again share his stories now with his great-grandchildren.
Grandpa Jim taught me alot, a great lot about forgiveness. He taught me as a young child sitting at his footstool that there are always consequence to our wrongdoing. He taught me the dangers of harbouring anger to the point of no return, and how it poisons ourselves when left unchecked, to seeth and fester, and to take up root.
Grandpa Jim taught me amongst so many other life lessons he shared, that forgives does not mean we forget. We never forget, the memories of the wrong done are etched in our precious memories for a great deal of time. Grandpa Jim taught me that those who do wrong can and do often receive consequences to their actions they probably wish were held back.
At the foot of my elder storyteller I learnt a great many things about what it is to be human and to have human character. When it comes to the wrongfully, appalling behaviour carried out by others, my grandfather taught me I can release myself from further poisoning harm, by saying as often as I personally need to hear myself say it, "I forgive you." Sometimes my own ears need to literally hear it said.
This much loved storyteller, my beloved Grandpa Jim, helped to teach me that forgiveness is not so much about those that have wounded us, but instead about the healing of our own resulting wounds and the guarding of our own hearts. He taught me about keeping my own heart searchable before God.
As so many of us here in New Zealand process our shock, our grief, our disbelief, our anger, our sorrow, it will be forgiveness that also helps us in time to heal.
Will New Zealand forget Friday 15 March 2019? No, I don't think many of us ever will.
Will our anger, our disbelief, our sorrow suddenly leave us because we each say in our own time and way, "I forgive you" to the person behind these acts of violence and madness? No, it is highly likely that will not occur.
Forgiveness is not a cloak that makes evil actions disappear in this realm of time and space and the responding feelings and thoughts likewise suddenly disappear. Forgiveness is not an act of forgetting. For me, it is an act of kindness to myself, before God, to help with my own healing.
Justice needs to be fully and undoubtedly served, according to the lawful practices of our land. A message to others looking on to see and even perhaps test how we respond as a nation, needs to be delivered.
New Zealand and her government in no measure condone or endorse hate-filled and criminal behaviour against any and all on our land; a definitive, clear and clear message and response is needed via fitting lawful full consequences to crime and violence; we will all be committed to continue to uphold that which we all value: our united desire in this land to live freely and peacefully alongside each other; In relation to each of these, I am convinced all my fellow good countrymen and women will unanimously agree.
Forgiveness and correct full justice can quietly journey alongside each other in the days ahead.
Like a soldier who so long ago watched a scene play out before him, I personally can balance both forgiveness and the desire for the handing out of full consequence. I am bigger than my anger and I can have control over it.
I believe God IS on His throne and has remained so, and He is just and good and great. I believe He understands both forgiveness and healing and He knows just how they each work out best over time for each individual also.
We can unitedly set before us a message that is clear and concise about where we stand in relation to appalling wrongdoing and its resulting lawful and just dealing consequences.
That very same responsive message can act as a sound warning to others harbouring an inclination to do any other such evil act that is the same.
We can act out just consequences and also say, "I forgive you" ......and my own heart and the others of my fellow countrymen and women will be better off for it. Justice can be served correctly alongside forgiveness also. The two stepping forward together heal us who are hurting so much better.
My grandfather was a good teacher, and one that I believe God himself ensured I had. My tears can flow still as they need.
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