I believe in the freedom of forgiveness. In my teens and early twenties I had tremendous rage and anger from hurts suffered in my youth. This un-forgiveness was a form of bondage that kept me from achieving true freedom.
In my late twenties a man told me about God and described a freedom he had found by accepting God’s redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. As I began to explore my own faith, I struggled with my un-forgiveness. I accepted that God could forgive me but found I was unable to pass that same forgiveness on to my fellow man; to, “Love as He first loved us.” I diligently searched the Bible, for an escape, but found only reinforcement that I was to forgive; even though I was the offender, God offered His forgiveness first.
About ten years ago I realized what I’d been forgiven of; realizing this, I could no longer hold others in contempt. I made a conscious decision that I would no longer let un-forgiveness hold me captive from my freedom.
Each day, I find myself surrounded by prisoners. Although these people are physically free, I hear anger in their voices, I observe it in how they interact with others, and some wear it like an ugly suit.
A year ago, I began volunteering with the County Jail Chaplain’s program. As I’ve gotten to know prisoners, I’ve found many who’ve realized their physical circumstances do not determine their state of being. I have met prisoners who have more freedom than some people I associate with on a daily basis.
A couple years ago I met a man who’s name is Jim. It was easy to relate to Jim because he and I shared similar histories. His father abandoned his family, his step-fathers were abusive, he’d carried a tremendous amount of anger because of those who hurt him, and he was briefly in the military. After being medically released, from the military, Jim returned home with even more rage and a feeling of failure. In 1983, while hitch-hiking, Jim was offered a ride by a man named Lloyd. During their three hour journey, they stopped at a few bars and Lloyd drank heavily. When they arrived in Arcata California, Lloyd offered Jim a place to stay. The following morning Jim awoke to find Lloyd, still inebriated, in the kitchen cooking. An argument broke out between them; as Lloyd turned to face Jim, with a cooking knife he had been using, Jim’s fear and his tremendous rage collided and he killed Lloyd.
While in prison, Jim became a Christian. Despite the fact that he’s spent his entire adult life in prison, Jim understands freedom. He has found freedom through his faith and through forgiving those who’ve hurt him. He’s also found peace through Lloyd’s son’s forgiveness and the friendship he’s waged with him.
I find personal joy in sharing this story and seeing prisoners released through the precious freedom of forgiveness. You see, Lloyd Copelin was my father.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.