Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forgiveness can be a hard pill to swallow

By now the world has heard of the first ever face transplant woman whom in 2004 was shot in the face by her own husband. For years Sherry Blank lived with a terribly disfigured face often scaring children on the streets and labeled a “monster” by strangers. This year she was introduced to the media as the first ever face transplant patient woman.

Blank has spoken about the traumatic day she was shot on several interviews and press conferences with unusual optimism. In a recent interview as she described the trauma she has experienced since the day of her shooting Blank shared something that has shocked many. She forgives and still loves her husband.

Now, she’s using her experience to inspire people to not only forgive but to use a traumatic, life changing experience to motivate and to challenge people not to judge others by face value.

How could she forgive the man who has scarred her for life? How could anyone forgive someone who caused them physical or emotional harm?

Darell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott who was shot and killed in the Columbine tragedy had a choice to make after losing his daughter and watching his son suffer the trauma of surviving. It was an essay titled, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” about kindness and forgiveness written by Rachel a year prior to her death that caused Scott and his family to forgive the shooters. He is now leading thousands of youth and even adults by his example of extending kindness and mercy to others.

In several interviews throughout his career Tyler Perry, has spoken about the importance of forgiveness. Famous for writing, directing and acting in films that star Madea a feisty grandmother with a whole lot to say. Perry has often credited the start of his success to the time he decided to forgive his father for the physical abuse he inflicted on him throughout his childhood. Perry has appeared and shared his story of forgiveness on shows like “CNN,” “Dr. Phil” and “The View.”

I once heard a minister describe forgiveness like playing with a Yo-Yo. When after you have forgiven you feel the emotions return you extend the Yo-Yo (forgiveness) another time? Sometimes you may have to forgive a person multiple times. Forgiveness can be hard especially when you feel you have not received justice for the harm done to you but in forgiving you are setting yourself free of the emotional burden. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

Friday, May 15, 2009

Suspended for Dancing? The Art of Christian Legalism

It’s not every day that you hear about a student suspended for wanting to go to a prom but that’s exactly what happened to Tyler Frost from Heritage Christian School in northwest Ohio. Apparently, Frost wanted to go to his girlfriend’s prom and was threatened by his school with suspension. The school has a rule about dancing, rock music, and even hand holding on or off campus.

When I came across this story online my heart went out to this poor kid. You see I went to a private Christian college in Nyack, NY where we weren’t allowed to dance either. We were asked to sign a contract where we were forbidden to dance on or outside of school premises. Being young to the faith and wanting to stay at my school I signed. I remember a girl who had to give up her beloved ballet classes because of the rule.

Keeping young Christians from all that is secular is like forbidding a lion from entering a forest. Animals and people have to experience life and trying to keep them in some bubble will only create frustration. This is called legalism and legalism will only create rebellion in the end.

I thought not being allowed to dance was a big joke since I grew up in a family of dancers. My mother is Cuban and we were raised with Salsa, Merengue and a whole lot of Gloria Estefan. Our holidays never had a dull moment. And when Hispanics have parties we’ll start at 3 p.m. and end at 3 a.m. The motto for my college was “social dancing equals babies” which always made me laugh. I remember the look of horror on a friend when I told her that I broke the rule and went to my sister’s “Autumn Soray.” She looked at me like I had committed the unpardonable sin.

In John 2: 1-11, Jesus went to a wedding at Cana in Galilee where he performed his first miracle. Jesus went to a wedding and I highly doubt that he sat in the corner watching everyone laughing and dancing. I bet you Jesus enjoyed himself and may have even had a dance with the bride herself.

One thing we all know from history is that unreasonable rules will always be broken. When people feel forced to comply with absurd rules and regulations they will rebel against them. This is why it is widely known that the first kids in the church to stumble are often the pastor’s kids. We are susceptible to trouble in one way or another but keeping people in a bubble won’t make them compliable.

So my words to Tyler Frost good for you for determining to go to your girlfriend’s prom! Enjoy yourself. These are the best years of your life. And shame on Christian institutions that think that holiness means you can’t wear any makeup or have to walk on the opposite side of the street of the opposite sex or that you can only listen to Praise and Worship music to be holy. Hopefully the Christian legalists will one day learn that having a little fun and dancing won’t send you straight to hell. Now, I’m going to listen to some “Nightwish.” I love their version of “The Phantom of the Opera.”