Last week I was given a book, The Water Walker, by Ted Dekker. I was excited. Honestly. Super Excited. Because it has been so long since I have read a good fiction book. I was excited to curl up. I was excited to not be able to put it down. I was excited to see all the scenes in my head, and what every character looked like so that if there ever were a movie made, I could critique it by the standards of my imagination. Within about three minutes, I thought I was going to set the book on fire. I was completely prepared to have my own book banning and book burning in the backyard by the time I was on page two…You see, I knew the theme of the book was forgiveness. And I was still excited because I have forgiven lots of people in my life. I can relate. Forgiveness is hard. Let’s have a good read and get on with this forgiveness topic that I have done so well over the last 8 years of following Jesus. But by page 2 it became extremely apparent that the main character, Eden, is going to be abducted. And y’all, I just can’t go there.
I hate this story.
I hate telling this story.
I hate feeling like everyone is left wondering what to say to me.
I hate this story.
When I was 6 years old, my sister and I were abducted by a stranger. He was not a monster. He was not disgusting. He was a young, good looking guy in Jordache jeans who simply walked up to us in the parking lot of our apartment complex and said that he was catching bunnies in the woods. There was no fear. There were only two little girls talking the whole way about how we weren’t allowed to have pets in our apartment. There was some scheming about how we could convince our mom to keep the bunnies. But other than that there were no alarms going off in my head. There was no, “Hey little girl, do you want some candy?” which I knew to run from. There was just a walk with a guy who looked like he could be a camp counselor and we talked and laughed the whole time. There was no hurry. There was no grabbing us, or screams for help. There was just a walk filled with laughter and the possibility of bunnies in the woods, and this might be the best weekend ever.
Sometimes I wonder how long he had watched us.
I wonder what gave him the final push to try the bunny charade.
Sometimes I wonder if weeks had passed before he headed over to wreck our lives.
I hate him.
The moment we stepped into the woods the charade was up. Two blankets lay on the ground. He said that we had to catch the bunnies with our shirts, and I froze. I have been asked 9 million times what happened in the woods. I can only tell you bits and pieces because, for me, the world went blank and I have come to believe that Jesus Himself shielded my eyes that day. And there would be a moment, a terrifying moment, when the blackness was gone, and this man was yelling at me to do things and he was trying to make me do things and I could not move. I could not move. Because I was 6 years old. And the bunnies were a lie. And he wouldn’t let us leave. And he was no camp counselor. And I wanted to cry, but I hated him more.
And then time slowed way down.
And I could see every detail of this one tiny tree branch.
And I heard a voice in my head and in my heart saying,
“Run or Die.”
So I ran. Because options were slim pickings that day.
I ran faster than him. That’s hard to do when you are 6 and barefoot. I ran into the back parking lot of our apartments and there was a man working on his car. I was screaming. He looked shocked. And he ran back into the woods to find my sister. And those were the longest minutes. I had run. She had not. And all of a sudden at 6 years old I knew what it felt like to wait, face pressed against the gates of hell, hoping for a happy ending. I was frozen in fear, but this time my eyes were wide open looking desperately for my sister. Alone. Because no one was looking for us.
I can’t remember if the man who had been fixing his car was carrying her.
But in my memory she is in his arms.
The cops came.
Composite sketches were made.
They never caught him.
So, I sit here 32 years later with a book that dares to ask ME to forgive my abductor. A book that dares ME to walk hand and hand with the Bible about forgiveness and tread on the water of my fears. And I press on, and read the whole dang thing. Because I can’t put it down. Because something inside me is stirring. Questioning. How on earth could I even begin to forgive this man? The man who wrecked my life, and crushed all my innocence…And I know he did it again y’all. They never caught him. He did this to other little girls. He has a closet filled with wrecked little girls. And how do you ever forgive that? Even if Jesus tells you to?
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
Jesus said all of these things y’all.
And I’m stuck with this knowledge. And I’m stuck knowing this boat of hatred and anger and bitterness is going to take me under, and the only answer is to walk on the waves to get back to shore. And I’m wishing in a way that I had never read, The Water Walker, and I still know it was placed in my hands at just the right time when I was just the right amount of ready to put just enough faith in Jesus and let my feet rest upon the waves and I will be free.
A young guy with a disgusting secret. He was hiding the sickness that had consumed him. He could never tell anyone, ever, what he did in the darkness of the woods behind the apartments. He hated himself. He had been abused by someone growing up. He hurt children, and he knew he was just like the ones who had hurt him. He could not look in the mirror. He was broken to the core.
And I forgive him.
This morning, as I walked and prayed and cried, I said those words out loud. I forgive him. And I let myself see him through the eyes of Jesus who aches for ALL of His broken children. Even the ones that broke me. Even the ones I hate. And I let my heart move on. I just let my heart move on. And as my boat sank to the bottom of the ocean, my feet stood firmly on the waves, and my Jesus was walking next to me. And the man in the woods lost the battle for my life today. And I looked back over 32 years of hate and anger and fear to say the hardest words I have ever meant,
I FORGIVE you.
So, my friends, maybe you need to walk on the waves with Jesus. Maybe you need to jump out of the boat that seems so safe, but is headed to the bottom of the ocean…and it is taking you with it. And maybe you need to let something like 32 years of a hardened heart break wide open…take your life back through the LOVE of Jesus…and just forgive the ones who hurt you…and see them through the eyes of Jesus…and just walk forward with your life and let Jesus win this battle. And the waves feel so good beneath my feet, and I am walking on water to a shore I have spent a long long long time trying to reach. And I’m going to get there y’all. With my Jesus. And it sure feels good.