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How Could I Forgive Something Like That?

May 28, 2014

imageI was sitting at my glass desk in the high-rise office building, looking around at all the opulence in this state-of-the-art corporate suite.  I was the head writer in a new Christian business venture run by a Christian entrepreneur who wooed me away from a great career as a writer and educator in Phoenix.  The negotiations went great; the gentleman wanted me so bad that he agreed to my salary demands and paid all my moving expenses to bring my family and me back to Knoxville, Tennessee.  We packed our belongings and made the move back east, joyous with the thoughts of being able to minister in this new worldwide setting.

I had been seated behind this desk for four months now.  There were twelve of us in this tight little team.  I heaved a deep sigh.  The place looked magnificent.  So up-scale. Everything we employees would want seemed to be around us.

Except money.

We hadn’t been paid in over two and a half months.

“Calm down, calm down.  The money’s on its way,” we kept getting told.  “Just hang on, and the ship will come in.”  We slaved, we starved, we hung on.  But nothing came in.

I looked over at Danny.  He had just been evicted from his apartment for owing too much back rent.  He glanced over at me.  “No response from the boss yet, huh?”

I shrugged.  “I was just going to ask you the same thing.”

The acting president tried to dart by us.  We caught him at his door.  Steven looked him directly in the eye.

“Come on now, Russ, where is Bordon?  He won’t answer our calls.  He won’t respond to e-mails.  You know where he is.  Tell us.”

Russ looked away.  “He’s out, okay?  He’s on a business trip, trying to get more investors.  It takes a while.”

“He’s on a trip all right, Russ,” called Glenn from three desks away.  We turned to look at him.  He was hanging up the phone.  “I just got word from a very reliable source that our Mr. Bordon is in the middle of a three-week European vacation with his family.  They just left Paris, right, Russ?”

Russ paled but wouldn’t answer.

“Wow,” said Glenn, folding his hands. “That’s a bit hard for me to grasp, seeing that I’ve not been able to afford my diabetes medicine for, oh, let’s say three weeks.”

He pointed over to Jay.  “Russ, how can you people do this?  You know Jay’s wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  Doesn’t Bordon have any Christian ethics?  Doesn’t he have any heart at all?”

Russ raised his hands.  “Look, just calm down.  Bordon is going to be in the office in a week and a half and we’ll all get this settled.”

The week got worse.  No money was to be found.  Bordon tried to organize a phone conference but many of the men were irritated, frustrated, exhausted.  They fired questions until Bordon just hung up.

The phones were ringing off the hook from creditors who were screaming foul and breathing threatenings. We hung on to our hopes.  Bordon made a feint to try to be beneficent.  A few small checks were doled out so that we could feed our families.  I was barely making rent and my wife had been diagnosed with fibro myalgia, a new and relatively unknown disease to us at the time.  The bills were piling up but Russ begged  me not to leave.  I stayed for another week, another month…

We applied the Matthew 18 principle.  We tried to talk to Bordon privately.  He refused.  We went as a group.  He refused.  Finally we had to bring in a spiritual authority to mediate the case.  Th group of us arranged a meeting with a trusted Christian financial expert and business owner to hear our case.  Bordon agreed to plead his side of the case as well.

The mediator awarded the decision to us.  “You are not paying your employees,” he said.  “No matter what else is going on, you have a responsibility to pay these men so that they may feed their families and pay their bills.”

“I see my problem,” said Bordon standing up and hugging all of us.  “I swear on my mother’s grave, you will all be paid.”  Then he left.

And he pulled it all down around our ears.

We arrived the next morning for work and the office was closed, shuttered for good.  He had taken the last remaining funds and skipped town.

I lost thousands.  Danny went bankrupt and had to move away.  Jay’s wife never got the treatment she needed .

She died.

I sat at the kitchen table and fumed.  It was righteous anger, wasn’t it?  I told myself it was.  I knew my wife was in bed, suffering from a worsening disease.  I was grabbing as many jobs as I could in order to scramble to put food on the table and fight off the creditors.  Ghost writer, mall kiosk salesman, deliveryman.  I was having yard sales and eBay campaigns.  We were selling furniture.  Yes, you could say I was angry.

I would get up in the morning and stomp through the house.  I would grip the coffee cup so hard that my knuckles were white.  I went into week-long bouts of depression.  And I fantasized about what I would do if I ever saw Bordon.

I’m not only angry for me, Lord, but I’m angry on behalf of my wife Jill  and my good friend Danny and my buddy Jay who is now a widower… I’m angry at the injustice and the downright cruelty…

I have a right to be angry.

And that’s when God touched me in the deepest part of my soul.

Brad, it seems to me that I remember another person who claimed he had a right to be angry.  He lost a lot of things as well… and a lot of dear people in his life.  His name was Job.  

I forgot about that.

And if you remember, it was Paul who was writing about joy in Christ… while he was suffering in prison.  You’ll notice he didn’t fume with anger, although he was clearly being mistreated. Listen, I’ll take care of this man.  That’s My business.  Your business is to take care of your family and be strengthened through this.  Lean on Me.  Look to My strength, not yours.  That’s what this Believer’s life is all about, isn’t it?

Yes.

I needed to dwell on these and others who lifted up Christ rather than their own woes.  Corrie Ten Boom suffered at the hand of the Nazis. Fanny Crosby was blind from youth but bore no anger.

I was able to get us back on our feet and move on again.  I grabbed a job at a corporation as a corporate liaison, working with giants like Toyota, Hertz, and Kia.  I had speaking opportunities and enjoyed working with some fine folk, but I longed to get back into the ministry of teaching.  Nothing was open, so I kept plugging away, traveling around the country.

I had just finished a speaking engagement in upper New York and flying back to Knoxville after a particularly hectic schedule.  I plopped into my seat in the airplane and waited for the rest of the passengers to board.  I was tired, but satisfied with the week’s business.

I heard the flight attendant chatting to a colleague.  The plane was full, she said, but they were holding the flight for a customer who was running late.  Selfishly, I groaned.  The only empty seat was next to me.  Oh, well, it’s just an hour and a half’s flight…

The late passenger boarded the plane.  He mumbled about trying to find his seat.  The flight attendant pointed to the place next to me.

God as my witness, it was Bordon.

We stared at each other.  He went pale.  I just stared.

“Please, sir, have a seat,” said the flight attendant.

Bordon mumbled something else and sat down.

We were next to each other.  There was nowhere he could go.  I had him where many a wronged person would only dream of: right next to me for a full hour and a half.

And a shock went through me.  I knew immediately the One who was wrestling with me.  Are you willing to forgive?  Didn’t I forgive you? Can you pass this test?

I looked at Bordon.  His face twitched.  “I’m kind of tired,” he said lamely.

“Yes, it’s been a busy week for me as well, ” I replied.  I looked at his profile.  He was nervous and guilt-ridden.  And I knew that he would always be this way until he fully repented before the One who gave him life and hope.

He was tense, ready for a verbal assault.

And I knew then that I forgave him.  God would deal with him.  I’m not God.

He pretended to fall asleep, but I could see by his twitching eyes that it was a ruse.  As the plane landed he bounded off the craft and I never saw him again.

And I never got the thousands and thousands that were owed me.

And I’m okay with that.

How can I explain it other than the fact that when I let the bitterness and anger go, God gave me a peace that I cannot explain or comprehend. Philippians 4:7 is a good verse talking about this.

I lost a ton of money.

But I gained freedom.

And I think the exchange was fair.

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One Comment
  1. Wow, what a great story!

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are required to trust and obey IN the circumstances – not just in an effort to get around the circumstances. Sometimes the “waves” are breaking right on our ship, and it seems as if the Lord is just sleeping below deck. At those times, we are still called to trust Him. Very hard to do. And sometimes things end badly.

    Really enjoyed this story. What a great twist … the only empty seat was next to yours… Thanks for the reminder about forgiveness. You’re right – we aren’t called to play judge.

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