Everyone deserves a second chance. When you give someone a second chance, I believe it can change the course of their entire life. Back in March, something bad happened to my son and we were given the opportunity to do this for someone.
On the evening of March 13, my 16 year old son Justin went over to a friend’s house to hang out with a few of his friends. During that time, two of Justin’s friends got into an argument. Another boy in the neighborhood approached them and got involved in the argument so Justin asked the boy to stop. Long story short, the boy came after Justin and punched him hard in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. Justin blacked out for a few moments and was unclear about what happened after that, except that he knew he had been injured on both sides of his jaw. After coming to his senses, Justin called a close friend and asked him to come get him and bring him home.
When Justin got home, he was hesitant about telling us what happened because he knew we would be very upset. When he finally got the courage to tell us, my mom heart was shattered to pieces. My husband Mark’s initial reaction was to call the police, but Justin asked him not to involve the police because he didn’t want anymore trouble with this boy. In my heart, I felt that God was impressing upon us to honor Justin’s wishes. After talking it over, we all agreed that we should wait on pressing charges or taking legal action. Instead, we made the choice to forgive this boy for hurting Justin. At the time, we did not feel it was serious enough to make a trip to the emergency room that night, so we decided to wait until morning to get him checked out.
The next morning, I called my dear friend Pam (who is also our family physician) and told her what had happened. She recommended that we go to urgent care and get an X-ray of his jaw just to make sure nothing was broken. After 3 hours at urgent care, we were sent downtown to the children’s hospital for an x-ray. When the doctor on call came in to share the results of the x-ray with us, we were shocked when he told us Justin had dislocated his jaw and sustained hairline fractures on both sides of his jaw. The surgeon said it was important that Justin have surgery done immediately to put titanium plates in both sides of his jaw in order to protect it from further injury.
So, on a Saturday evening at 11:00 pm, I found myself sitting alone in an empty waiting room waiting for Justin to get out of surgery. Because it was so late, Mark and I agreed that he would stay home with our son Josh and come to the hospital in the morning.
During that quiet time alone in the waiting room, I prayed that God would guide the surgeon’s hands during the surgery and that there would be no complications. I also prayed for peace to fill my heart and mind while I waited. Although I was the only person in the waiting room, I never felt alone. Instead, I felt God’s presence and peace the entire time. This verse was on my heart that night: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7
When the surgery was done and I was able to visit Justin in recovery, my heart broke all over again when I saw him because he looked bad. His face was swollen and his lips were cracked and stretched from the surgery. I felt like crying because my precious son was hurt and my heart ached for him like never before.
Justin was incoherent the entire night because of the anesthesia. At 3:00 am, I attempted to get some rest, but Justin’s breathing was shallow and the heart monitor alarm kept going off and waking me up. Each time the alarm went off, a nurse would come in and gently wake up Justin so his breathing would return to normal. After an hour of this, I prayed that God would calm my anxious heart and allow me to get a few hours of sleep. I knew the hospital would be releasing Justin in the morning and I would need strength to take care of him once we got home. Thankfully, I managed to get a few hours rest.
Later that morning, Justin was released from the hospital. I knew he was going to be okay when he asked me if we could go through the drive thru at McDonald’s on the way home and get him a shamrock shake!
The surgeon recommended that Justin stay home from school for one week, with no track or weight training for 6 weeks. He was on a liquid diet for the first week and a soft food diet for 5 weeks. Can you imagine what this meant to a growing, physically active 16 year old with a big appetite? Trust me when I say that I learned how to be creative in my meal planning during that 6 weeks. Thank God for Google!
One important thing I’ve learned in life and from this experience is that there’s always good that comes from a bad situation. Although I wish this had never happened to Justin, it helped us to bond in a way that I would have never thought possible, especially during the turbulent teen years. That week, we had some wonderful conversations sprinkled with laughter that I will cherish forever.
One thing I discovered about Justin is that he is a survivor. Not only does he have a high tolerance for pain but he also heals quickly. Another thing that surprised me was that Justin maintained a great attitude throughout the entire six week period. He never complained about not being able to participate in track or weight training, not even about his restricted diet.
A few weeks after the incident, I reached out to the boy’s mother and we had some good conversations over the phone. His mother told me he had been trying to come to terms with something very hurtful and life changing that happened to him last summer. He was struggling with disappointment, anger, and depression over this difficult event and had not really worked through it, leading up to the incident with Justin. His parents were shocked when they found out he had hurt Justin, because he had no prior history of physical assault. We are currently working towards meeting with the boy and his parents to discuss what happened and to finally get some closure from it.
It’s not easy to extend grace and choose the path of forgiveness. It’s much easier to feel justified and let the person get what they “deserve”. But the truth is, we all make mistakes at some point in our lives. Nobody is perfect. When we forgive someone, we are not letting them off the hook. It’s not saying that what the person did is okay. Instead, we are releasing them to God and letting the Lord deal with what the person has done. As a Christian, God wants me to extend the same forgiveness to others that he offers so freely to me.
Not long after Justin was hurt, Tammy Trent, Christian recording artist, posted the following on Facebook:
“In this world we are so quick to hate and seek revenge, to render an eye for an eye, when God distinctly tells us that vengeance is His, He will repay…Trust me, I know it’s not easy, because it can cut like a knife, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, it rips your heart out, and tears you apart. But God tells us to LOVE, that it is possible and do-able; look what they did to Him before He went to the cross, on His way to the cross, and while He was on the cross, yet His only response was a prayer, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24) That’s love! May we all choose to walk better in love today towards those who have caused us intentional or unintentional hurt & pain. It brings healing and release and freedom!”
Yes! When we extend forgiveness to someone who has hurt us, we are giving them a second chance. A fresh start to make a better choice in the future. By giving this boy a second chance, only God knows the impact it will have on his life in the future. It could radically change his life for the better and draw him closer to God. Whatever the future brings, we have peace in our hearts for doing the right thing. For choosing the path of grace and forgiveness. Because everybody deserves a second chance.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. ~ Romans 5:3-5