A War Hero’s Greatest Triumph

Forgiveness Symbols from Bing ImagesAn eighth-place finish at the Olympics is a dream few attain. And it’s no small exploit to survive 47 days stranded at sea. To endure two years of cruel treatment at a Japanese prison camp is unimaginable. Yet there’s something more remarkable about Louis Zamperini’s story than any of these feats combined.

The life of an Olympian-turned-war hero is a treasure for the history books, but Louis Zamperini accomplished something greater than these other impossibilities. It’s found in the words of a letter penned by his own hand, written to the man who’d tortured him during those years at prison camp…

“Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end…The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them’I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.” –Louis Zamperini (Unbroken)

Reading these words, I’m humbled to consider the depth of suffering and staggered to contemplate the degree of forgiveness on the part of a man who suffered so greatly. This overcoming of unthinkable trials, this forgiving of unimaginable torture is the war hero’s greatest triumph.

It reminds me of Corrie ten Boom, who after saving the many lives during World War II was sent to prison camp—there tortured and starved, there losing her family. Years later, upon encountering one of the guards who’d dealt the blows of suffering—she forgave. Or of Elisabeth Elliot, who after her husband was speared to death, returned to the tribe responsible, living among them and teaching them the way of love.

Ultimately, it reminds me of Jesus who, beaten, tortured, suffering, and dying on the cross spoke words of forgiveness to his tormentors. If I am ever to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and overcome the impossible, I look to my Savior, who went before me in the way of suffering and forgiveness. And who enables me to do the same.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
True Love…FORGIVES (Day 36,#50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010, pp. 396-97.

The Day I Exploded

Erupting Volcano from Bing Images Have you ever said something you regret? Something that maybe needed to be said but came out at the wrong time in the wrong way? Believe me, I’ve been there a few too many times.

I’m one of those who likes to avoid conflict at all costs. If necessary, I prefer a peaceful confrontation with a peaceful outcome. It takes time, figuring out the perfect way and time to say what needs to be said, and by then its usually too late. Problem is, when I wait too long, it comes out all wrong.

This happened a few weeks ago with some people I really love. Something happened that brought long-buried issues to surface, and…BAM! It needed to be said, but it didn’t exactly come out in calm, peaceful, eloquent way I would have wanted it to. The entire conflict lasted a short time, but it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t handle it the right way.

In the midst of it, I learned that all loving relationships endure conflict at one time or another. The important thing is to take responsibility for our part. If we truly love each other, we’ll care enough to humble ourselves and admit where we were wrong. Here’s an excerpt from a letter I sent out to those involved, after taking responsibility for my part in the conflict…

What happens in one moment can affect a lifetime, and too often hurtful things are said and done in those moments that we wish we could take back. But what is done beyond those moments is equally important. What will we model through how we respond when conflict does arise (as it will in every relationship)? Will we say we’re sorry when we’re wrong? And will we forgive those who wronged us? Those examples will outlast everything else.
Since we can’t rewind tonight and start over, we have only a couple choices—to let this break our relationship or build it. How we respond in the long run will affect us more than tonight ever will. Again and again, I’m sorry for responding in the wrong way. I love you and value my relationship with you, and hope that one bad moment won’t destroy the countless good moments we’ve had together.

In an ideal world, we’d have no conflict. But we live in a broken world where conflict is unavoidable. It’s how we deal with it that matters. As for me, it’s humbling to admit there are times when I explode and have to pick up the pieces. But I’d rather take responsibility than pretend it never happened. I believe that storms can strengthen our relationships, if we respond in humility and love. If we care enough to rebuild what was broken, we may come out stronger than before.

True Love…TAKES RESPONSIBILITY (Day 21, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)