When forgiveness feels impossible

Neighbors had warned me of the dog down the street. Over the past several years, the dog has attacked at least three dogs in the neighborhood. I had hoped my dog and that one might never meet.

Three weeks ago, I was walking my dog before dinner, and suddenly the dog came tearing out of its open garage and into the street. It grabbed my dog’s back leg and then pinned her down and grabbed her throat in its jaws. The attack continued for what felt like forever, but really lasted only a few minutes.

While my dog survived the attack, she was badly wounded and had to have surgery the next morning. She has had complications and numerous vet visits since. She is recovering, probably better than I am. That’s the beauty of dogs. They live in the present moment.

Wounded2016_FT

My sweet pup, healing and enjoying the sunshine (You can see that weeding the yard was not a priority for me during her recovery. Dandelions will take advantage of a neglectful gardner.)

I have struggled to live as much in the present moment as she does. These last few weeks have seen me alternate between wrath and fear and despair. My husband and I have waited (in vain, so far) for a response from the dog’s owners, knowing that a verbal “I’m sorry” is hollow at this point.

I know I’ll need to forgive these neighbors, even if they never own up to their responsibility in the attack, but it’s a knowledge I’m not ready to accept.

My dog happily takes her antibiotics because I’ve slathered them in peanut butter. Forgiveness is a bitter pill I do not want to swallow, and there’s no peanut butter to make it taste better for me. But it’s a pill that is healing medicine for me, and so I must try.

What has helped is a number of loved ones surrounding us and this situation in prayer. One sweet prayer warrior has sent me several Bible verses to remind me of God’s love and protection for me, including two that I share with you here in case you need them today, too:

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to us as well.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7a

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. — Psalm 34:7

A more challenging verse keeps playing over and over in my head, though:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
— Romans 12:19-20

Would I be able to do that some day? Help the neighbor who has caused so much suffering, who has caused neighbors to fear walking down their own street? Right now, I’m not sure of my answer. The answer may become clearer with time passing and God working on my heart.

I know, too, that far greater griefs and injuries than this exist in the world. Lahore. Aden. Brussels. Istanbul. Ain al-Assad army base. Iskandariya. These are the latest sites of senseless bloodshed. Where does forgiveness even begin for those who are living through unimaginable loss?

Corrie ten Boom is a beacon of hope for me when it comes to learning forgiveness, even when it feels impossible. She calls forgiveness “an act of will,” and she also describes moments (such as the time one of her Nazi guards came up to her after a talk she gave and asked her to forgive him) when only the power of God can enable forgiveness.

I’m going to read The Hiding Place and then Tramp for the Lord again after that. Want to join me? Maybe come back here at the end of April to share the ways her amazing words have encouraged and taught us?

In the meantime, if you have a forgiveness story of your own that you’d like to share in the comments below, I’d love to read it and share it with the other visitors to this space.

6 thoughts on “When forgiveness feels impossible

  1. Pingback: A revival call: The practice of reaching out | The Flourishing Tree

  2. Pingback: Healing in the Hiding Place | The Flourishing Tree

  3. So very sorry about your pup! Healing prayers are being sent for your sweet girl and for you. May God grant all of you comfort and peace while recovering physically & emotionally. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t have to bear any responsibility. If a dog that aggressive is not reported, his next victim might not be so lucky.

    • Thanks for your prayers and kind words. Rest assured, I filed a report with animal control, but because I was the first to do so, very little has been done at this point. While I struggle with the forgiveness work ahead, I also want to protect others from this dog attacking theirs (or their children).

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