Pressure is Mounting
First of all, I thought I would fail. I had failed with my first book to explore forgiveness in it's fullest. I just told the story.
Certainly failed when I wrote Confronting the Horror -- it was a dismal book.
And even though I had been given the opportunity of criss-crossing the country giving multi presentations about forgiveness, I really hadn't explained it.
I certainly had been given the time and opportunity.
I had started telling my story the very first year after Candace's murder even limiting myself to one speaking engagement a month. There never seemed to be lack of opportunity. Someone said that within a year or two the invitations would stop. Thirty-three years later - I'm still waiting for that to happen. One year I spoke approximately 57 times, at least once in every province.
Yet, I never felt I had done it adequately, that I had actually accomplished explaining what forgiveness meant to me. Perhaps it was because I was in process. I was on an exploration. Or was it that I didn't have that spectacular ending that a true forgiveness story needs to give conclusive evidence that it works. I just was a work in process.
Besides I wasn't a debater or essayist, I was just a story teller.
And this was in keeping with my calling - a calling is that strong urge toward a particular way of life or career, or vocation. A calling is our gift - our reason for being -- the reason we think we are born.
I've tried a few callings. As a romance writer - everyone fell in love with the villain. As a want-to-be missionary - I wasn't very good at evangelism. I'd rather play ping pong. I learned this early.
It was in Bible School. Every Friday - car loads of students were dropped off somewhere in Saskatoon to "evangelize." I was in the car that stopped at the university where we were suppose to hand out the tracts on the "Four Spiritual Laws," strike up a conversation with whoever would talk to us and tell them about God. Later we would all meet at a coffee shop to debrief. Those that held contact numbers as invitations to further conversations were the winners.
Meandering through the halls, I came across some international students playing ping pong.
I loved ping pong, table tennis- so I went over just to watch. They asked me if I wanted to play a round.
I did! I hadn't played for awhile.
I was so delighted and just swung into action. I was in the flow -- and I won!
I think they were absolutely amazed. They wanted to play again and again -- and I was good.
Little did they know that for most of my high school years, I had been a kind of sparring ping pong partner for a fellow next door who would come over and played ping bong every Saturday. He came because we happened to have a table in our family room.
I don't know how it started or how it ended. I just know he would come and we played. I kind of liked him, but we didn't talk much-- just played and played. Every once in a while - when I was in the flow - I would win him -- and he would become so upset.
Only later did I hear that he had in actuality won the ping pong championship in his high school.
These International students were ready to listen to me after I beat them - and I did explain why we were there - but mainly I just wanted to chat with them and be ping pong friends. They begged me to come back.
At the debrief in the coffee shop, I realized that I hadn't really capitalized on the moment. I hadn't even gone through the "Four Spiritual Laws" as we were suppose to. We had just talked about God - about life - and about each other. I wasn't cut out to evangelize -- I decided then and there, I was just cut out to tell stories, have great conversations and play ping pong occasionally.
So right after the murder when I was being asked to talk, I couldn't preach forgiveness, I could just tell my stories. I actually thought it was all I needed to do. "Live so people would ask me questions" the Bible said and my answer to that was to tell the story.
However there were times when I did try to give answers, but that didn't work out well for me. People were either bored or took issue with me. They didn't seem to like my answers, Some people walked out on me, some called me dangerous, some alienated me. Forgiveness was not an easy concept. I wasn't dangerous, the concept was -- and is. The greatest peace figures seem to be assassinated.
But I found out with time that even though they didn't like my forgiveness-- they did like my stories.
So I was careful in the way I fashioned my stories. When I addressed institutions or organizations, I would tell them the stories illustrating the 15 issues found in the Abyss of murder.
When I was addressing the churches, I would illustrate the three virtues: faith, hope and love with stories.
The problem with story, is that stories are so complicated, layered and incomplete, that people can take them to wherever they want. Some of the reactions to my stories were priceless.
I remember after one presentation in prison, one of the lifers came up to me and said. "I believe in life for a life, as well. I believe in execution."
I was stunned. That isn't what I thought I was saying.
After another presentation in a church, one woman thought I was telling her to forgive/love her psychopathic husband who was abusing her children.
It's dangerous to tell stories - but it was my only tool. There were some who seemed to be inspired.
Another fear I had was that I hadn't quite forgiven - especially after the murderer was charged with first degree murder. Suddenly being thrust into "relational" forgiveness, I found that I still expected, and wanted justice.
So when the most skeptical friend came over to spend some time with us. I bared my soul to him, and then asked him. "Are we forgiving?"
He said, "yes." Then he described what he thought was forgiving. It's an attitude of acceptance, love and hope. And yes -- we were all of that. So that was a great comfort!
Still I doubted -- just because one might have victory once in a while- doesn't mean one is an expert.
Yet - the former Justice Minister's voice echoed in my soul. He didn't forget it either. Years later when we met again as I was just finishing the writing of this book on forgiveness, he took great pleasure in hearing about my journey.
But at the time -- I thought it just isn't going to happen. I was terrified, I would get it wrong, I was terrified I would arouse the anger in those that don't, can't forgive. Sometimes my heart still fails me.
True forgiveness is not an action after the fact, it is an attitude with which you enter each moment. David Ridge