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Forgiving the Innocent







Adam got well.

After a long, hard winter of radiation, infections, a second operation, antibiotics, his hair started growing back–first with wispy strands, finally morphing into a confident mop.  He let it get long; I didn’t object.  He finished his junior year in high school, and we celebrated by going cycling in Europe as a family.  The following year he finished high school and started his first year at a prestigious college in Atlanta.

But I found myself emotionally distanced from him.  A little voice in the back of my mind told me I should be more grateful, more joyful.  I hope I disguised my emotional desert well and did the right things as a father.  It was depression, I told myself, and I’m sure that’s part of it, but the emotional distance from Adam was specific and held a thinly veiled streak of anger.

Many months, perhaps years, passed before I realized my anger was in response to his illness.  He quite unintentionally terrorized me with the specter of grief that came from nearly losing him. And he also held the power to terrorize me again.  I feared to get too close.

But if I were to have an authentic father-son relationship, I had to get over my fear and my anger.  I had to forgive my son for having a brain tumor.  The tumor wasn’t his fault, obviously, and it wasn’t his choice to make me vulnerable or to hurt me.  But emotionally, I somehow held him responsible.

Once I understood that neither Adam, nor his tumor, caused my fear, my anger dissolved easily.  My fear of loss came from something within me, something beyond my ability to give up: the power of love.  And that love is without choice; he was born, I held him, I loved him.

Love is always a risk.  Give your heart away, and it can get weighed down so that it can drag you to the depths and destroy you.  If I were to continue to love him, I had to forgive him–even though he was innocent–and I had to accept the consequences of love.

Forgiving Adam for his tumor is not so much granting absolution as it is granting permission to hurt me again.  It is saying Go ahead, get sick if need be, because I will be there and I will not flinch, I will not distance myself, I will not walk away.  Because fear of loss is the cost of love, the dark side of the coin whose other side is shining joy.  And Adam gives me great joy.

I am awed now by the infinitely better love of our heavenly Father who loves me and forgives me–and I am not innocent.  He gives me permission to get sick, to sin, to live like a prodigal son–not encouragement, but permission–even though what I do may break His heart, cause angels to weep, and the world to become more like hell than heaven.  Yet He promises to be home waiting, ready to get up and run to meet me.  What I now understand in a small way is the cost of that great love, the dark side of the coin He is willing to pay because in some unimaginable way I must give Him great joy.

If this sounds like I am special in the eyes of God, I am.  So is Adam.  But the good news is, so are you.  You give Him great joy.

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4 thoughts on “Forgiving the Innocent”

  1. You are an amazing writer able to convey what is in your heart onto paper! I was also touched by your paragraphs 6 (beginning with “Love is always a risk” and the following paragraph 7 beginning with “Forgiving Adam.” This is so true in relationships of husband/wife and parents/children, it seems. Love – sin – forgiveness and the cycle repeats. What a mighty , loving and forgiving God we serve!!!

  2. I will be contemplating and applying for several days now that short sentence, “love is always a risk.” Thank you.

  3. It’s hard to reply thru tears but if I could have put into words how I felt when my first born grandson while a junior in college came down with lymphoma cancer. It had already spread to his chest and stomach. His parents rushed him to Houston to the hospital that is now part of Baptist in Jacksonville. Cameron had his future all planned out with a 4.5 GPA. I was angry, too, at him and what was taking him away from us. I laid on the floor with my Bible communicating with my Heavenly Father. I quoted His own Words back to Him. From March (Cameron’s diagnosis) to October (his healing) I never let go of God. In October they could find no cancer after all that he went thru. He graduated with Honors and Ted Cruz talked about the strength and amazing perseverance that my Cameron showed thru those months. So, Dr. Lohse, as tender and wonderful as you are I understand. Because you were my Doctor, I’ll always have love, respect and admiration for for you. I have trusted God for what He has for Cameron to do. I also love Adam and his calling the God has placed on his life. You and I are only human but God has made us better humans. God bless you and Adam always.

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