As Jesus hangs beaten and humiliated on the cross, the first words he utters …. forgiveness “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:34
Stephanie Booth published an article on August 29, 2014, on RealSimple.com, as told by Nettie Gibson, 33, of Monroeville, Pennsylvania. It’s a great example of going through pain and tragedy and still finding a way to extend forgiveness.
A flash of silver. That’s all Nettie, a mental-health counselor, recalls about driving to work on the morning of August 10, 2011, when another car swerved into her lane, hitting Nettie’s sedan head-on. With her right leg pinned between the dashboard and the front seat, Nettie drifted in and out of consciousness for almost an hour before firefighters rescued her. In the emergency room, convinced that she was going to die, Nettie asked a nurse to pen a good-bye letter to her 13-year-old son, Dominic. “I told him how proud I was of him,” she says, “and how sad I was to leave him.” Her injuries were extensive, requiring 10 hours of emergency surgery: Her spleen, her appendix, and two-thirds of her colon and upper intestine had to be removed. Besides nearly losing her right foot, Nettie broke her right arm and shattered her right heel. “For days it hurt to breathe,” she says, “and even feel the hospital gown against my skin.” Not until several weeks later, when Nettie began to recover, did her lawyer break the awful news to her: The 63-year-old woman who had caused the accident had had a blood-alcohol level well over the legal limit. “Before that I hadn’t been angry. Accidents happen,” says Nettie. “But who’s drunk at 8:15 in the morning and driving around?” Her distress only increased upon learning that the driver had minimal auto insurance and that Nettie, who was separated from her husband, would be saddled with hefty medical bills. The last straw came the day before Thanksgiving, when her boss announced that Nettie was being let go. “I was so depressed. For the next six months, I got Dominic off to school in the morning and then spent the rest of my day sleeping,” says Nettie. She despaired every time she thought of the drunk driver who had brought such hardship into her life. All that devastation took a toll. The following spring, Nettie started taking antidepressants and seeing a therapist. “In our sessions, I worked on acknowledging my anger and hurt, then letting those feelings go. It was hard to do,” she admits. “But asking, ‘Why me?’ over and over was getting me nowhere.”
In August 2012, Nettie was in the courtroom when the woman who had caused the accident was sentenced to eight to 16 months in jail. (She was ultimately released after serving just three months, due to a heart condition.) “The woman looked so scared,” she remembers. “I couldn’t imagine what was going through her head.” Afterward, Nettie approached the public defender. “I said, ‘Please let [your client] know that I forgive her.’ ” The gesture gave Nettie a huge sense of relief. “I wasn’t in control of her actions that morning,” she says. “But I am in complete control of how I respond from here on out, and I decided to choose forgiveness over hate and animosity.” Today, while she focuses on rehab, Nettie is a public speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Slowly she is learning to walk again, and she looks forward to starting a job search soon. “Every day, I find something to be thankful for,” she says. “I couldn’t feel that gratitude without forgiveness.”
Blessings, Pastor Michael