During the summer, the youth group that I help lead went on one of our big events at Bear Creek Lake in Colorado. Like most youth groups, students need rides and before leaving to the event I was on my way picking up a few of the students going that Saturday. After picking up four guys for the event, we were on our way.
While driving to our church to touch base with other leaders before leaving to the event, some of the guys in the backseat of my car decided to pull out their BB guns that they recently bought. Of course at the time, I wasn’t aware they even had them in my car. Anyways, they eventually got pretty excited about them and before you know it they wanted to show me how powerful their BB guns were while I’m driving.
Granted all of this is happening within the span of a few minutes, but at first they pretended to use them and make lots of fake gunshot noises. Then one of them gets the bright idea of showing me what they sound like when they shoot them without any BB’s inside. Without enough time to react, one of the students behind me points the gun directly at my front windshield and fires it twice in quick succession.
Within an instant and by the sound of it, we all realized that the BB gun was actually loaded and my windshield now had two brand new bullet holes. One in the lower right hand corner and the other in the upper right hand corner of my front windshield. My reaction could have been better, but I was pretty pissed to say the least.
We soon arrived at the church and I confiscated their BB guns for the day before leaving for the event. I decided to allow the students to go to the event, even though they just damaged my car. They come from very broken homes and the last thing they needed was to go home early. For these four guys in particular, being at church or youth group is an escape from the Hell that they have to live with on a daily basis.
For instance, one of them lives with their grandparents because his mom chose to stay addicted to drugs rather than raise him. To this day, his mom wanders around looking for her next fix, while her son wonders why she doesn’t love him enough to quit. All four of these guys have similar stories and this cultural footprint influences the majority of their behavior. These boys are simply the byproduct of broken people who don’t know any better.
When we arrived at the lake, everyone seemed to have a fun time except me. The kids were hanging out and having a blast, but I couldn’t stop thinking about why this situation was frustrating me so much. I was angry and couldn’t shake it all day, but I also knew this happened for a reason.
Unlike most people, I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences. Instead, I believe that God works all things together for those who trust in him and therefore every moment is an opportunity to learn something. In this moment, I just couldn’t figure out what that something was or why this moment happened.
When it came time to go home, I told the students that I was going to hold onto their BB guns until one of them confessed to shooting my front windshield. Because they shot it from the backseat, I never actually knew who did the damage to my car. So as I dropped off all of the students and headed home, I kept thinking about what to do next.
I texted back and forth with other people to get advice from them. They all had very similar answers: get justice. Those kids deserve what’s coming to them. They’re guilty and need to be responsible for their actions. At one point I planned on destroying all of their BB guns, but I never did because the guilty student texted me that night.
Knowing this particular student and their circumstances, I believe their apology was genuine. He mentioned that he wanted to fix things and explained to me that it was an accident. He didn’t realize he actually had BBs in his BB gun at the time. After reading his response, it finally clicked for me. I knew what this whole situation was finally about.
You see, I too was in a very similar spot when I was in 3rd grade. After school one day, I was waiting by the hill where the soccer fields were for my Dad to pick me up. I was with a few of my peers and we decided to see who could throw a rock far enough to hit this abandoned house across the street from the school where we were waiting. In between us at the top of the soccer fields hill and the abandoned house was the street where parents were picking up their students.
We each took an attempt. All of us ended up throwing way too short and were hitting the sidewalk across the street. Then we all went again. Everyone got a little closer, but I hit a shingle on the roof causing it to chip a bit. This looked and sounded awesome, so I went for one more throw.
With this third throw, I lobbed my rock way too high and it flew straight down where the cars were lined up ready to pick up kids. My third attempt went directly into the center of an expensive sports car. Like dropping a bomb in a lake, this windshield completely cracked and splintered off in every direction.
Before I knew it, this wealthy man got out of his car and was scanning the perimeter as he tried to find the culprit. Little did he know that this culprit was crying and hiding behind what felt like the only bush on that hill. I barely fit behind it and was hoping he would just go away.
What felt like hours passed and eventually my sibling came by to tell me that Dad was here talking to the wealthy man with the broken windshield. I straight up died inside right then and there from complete terror. After wiping my tears, I went down the hill and got in our car.
Later that night, my Dad was pacing back and forth. By his conversations with my Mom, I could tell that I did something really bad. That this sports car’s windshield was going to be expensive to fix.
When the dust settled, my Dad finally came to my room and told my brothers to leave so he could talk to me in private. He asked me how I was feeling and then what happened. I gave him the gist of it and he listened intently.
After hearing my side of things, there was a pause. Then he broke it by saying that I didn’t need to worry about the windshield because he was going to pay for it. We hugged and then joined the rest of the family for dinner. He forgave me and that was the last that I ever heard of that situation.
Jump back to when I received this text from the student who cracked my windshield and now it all added up. I now knew what I needed to do. This lesson in life was about finding forgiveness when justice was expected.
Grabbing my Bible, I looked up Matthew 18:21-35 for the story of the king and the two debtors. When I found the passage, I prayed about the situation and replied back to the student. To read the screenshots of the conversation we had, I’ll just refer you to the footnotes at the end of this post.
Anyways, I said not to worry about the window and told my story from third grade. Next, I told him to look up Matthew 18:21-35 and asked him to read it instead of paying for the windshield. Like my Dad forgave me, I forgave him.
When I was at fault, I was forgiven. Therefore, since he was at fault I decided to forgive him too. From there, he did his homework and I forgave him again in-person just to make sure he understood what I was trying to show him.
That God offers everyone two choices: justice or forgiveness. The difficult road is getting exactly what we deserve and becoming not only distant to Jesus in this life, but the life to come when this is all over. The easy road is to avoid evil and conform to God’s goodness as we pursue freedom in Christ.
That day I could have gone with either option and been completely in the right, but ultimately forgiveness won out. Sometimes, justice must be done and yet other times grace must take place. At the end of the day, that decision is up to you. So when an unjust moment happens to you and you see an opportunity for the other party to learn something, find the courage to forgive. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.
- Matthew 18:21-35 | “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”