Sunday, January 17, 2010

Both Sides

In morning report, my colleague shared the story the previous day's car wreck.

They had been T-boned when the driver ran the red light. While the driver and back-seat friend were scraped and bruised, the front-seat passenger friend ("Sally") was not expected to live. Sally was in critical care. My colleague introduced me to Sally's family soon after our morning prayer time. He cared for them from the moment the ambulances arrived at the hospital.

Now I was on call.

I sat with Sally's mother all morning. She refused to believe what was happening. She loved her daughter and why was she here? She told me how her daughter loved being a girly girl, how she had only yesterday painted her toenails (they were bright pink!) and how she would do anything to have her daughter wake up just then. I listened and loved Sally's mother, affirming her impending loss and how broken God's heart is, too.

When Sally's father joined our conversation at bedside, he expressed his anger. He began sharing his feelings and Sally's mother also shared her anger. The two were estranged, but they agreed that only revenge or worse would be appropriate for the driver of the car.

I was speechless to soothe this angry talk and I wonder if my silence meant that I complied with their sense of needing revenge. In that moment, I wondered what to say or do or be. My heart broke for the family's loss and for the immediate sense of "he will pay for this!" that seemed to fill the space. In my guts, the tension rose. After a while, more family members came for a visit. I left for a break.

At my break down near the chapel, I was approached by a young man. He was the driver of the vehicle and needed to talk. He had been banned from the waiting room where Sally's friends and family were gathered. They had physically removed him. He shared with me his story about what happened and how distraught he was. I heard his self-disgust, his contrition, his deep grief, his broken heart (he loved her!), his self-condemnation, his self-reproach and deep remorse. I listened and loved him. I was filled with sadness as I realized the horror this man was going through.

Where is reconciliation in this? How can I be loving on both sides? What a horrible loss - for both.

I thought about Helen Prejean's experience as spiritual adviser to a man on death row, as told in the book and move Dead Man Walking. Here, she writes about living on "both sides:"

When I told the story in Dead Man Walking, I told stories on both sides because there are two arms on the cross. When we get into these deep life issues, we live in a culture that tries to polarize and say, “Either you’re for the perpetrator or you’re for the victim.” But we have to be for both and it’s the dignity of human life in both. ... all of us are called to do. {I spend my time...} awakening people to the true Gospel call to live lives of mercy and forgiveness rather than vengeance. That’s what I devote my life to.

I am challenged and confronted by this call to be on both sides for the dignity of human life and continue to pray for grace to fill my heart and teach me how.

How are you seeing both sides in this moment?

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. - Gallatians 6:1-3 (The Message)

1 comment:

  1. I love this phrase "I told stories on both sides because there are two arms on the cross." What a great experience to make this come to life!