Our family had a rough week, and had an excellent lesson in forgiveness along the way.
Our one-year-old lab puppy, Bandit, was shot by an angry neighbor. We don't know all the details. It's a neighbor we don't know, and aren't exactly sure of his location. But he lives "somewhere behind us." Apparently, our dogs (Bandit has a brother named Shadow) discovered turkeys and had caught one. We assumed they were wild turkeys and so were just mildly amused at their find.
It seems that the turkeys may belong to this neighbor. I was outside Tuesday afternoon with 4 of the kids when we heard turkeys gobbling. The dogs heard it and took off in that direction. In the hopes of catching a glimpse of wild turkeys, we ran as far as we could within our property line. Though we could not see where the dogs ran, we could hear the round of gunshots that took place less than a minute later, followed by the yelp of dogs
Our curiosity was instantly changed to fear. But we immediately saw both of our dogs running back home, apparently unharmed. I explained to the kids that they must have been shot with something minor to scare them away (as I remember my dad doing when I was young). We looked both dogs over and saw no injuries, and even petted and comforted them in their distress, and eventually went on with our play.
After about 1/2 an hour, I went inside where my oldest daughter was cooking. She knew nothing of the events, but asked if I had seen Bandit. She said he must have gotten into something because he was injured and bleeding. I was so surprised! I explained to her what happened, and we both went looking for him. We never found him.
We came to the realization that he was fatally wounded, even though we didn't see a wound at first. What shock and sadness then took over our home! Everyone cried. I was angry. Not knowing for sure where he was made it even harder. We could not help him. My husband and I searched our property with flashlights but found no sign. We had to give up.
I think the hardest part was watching the sadness of my children. This was their first dog. Not only was he shot, but we basically witnessed it. And we knew that dogs getting into livestock was wrong, but felt it could have been handled differently.
Natural feelings of anger arose. We just wished the neighbor understood what he had done. If only he knew that he had killed our pet! But this brought up an excellent point in Biblical character:
We must forgive, even if we haven't been asked.
The neighbor has no clue what he did to our dog, he may not care, and we may never receive an apology. He has not asked forgiveness, so are we required to forgive?
Yes. It is OUR character that God is concerned with; not apologies, and not making sure someone knows of our hurt.
So, a family talk was in order. This was hard, as we are still dealing with tears and sadness, but I explained that forgiveness comes from the heart, and not always in a warm and fuzzy situation where someone has apologized profusely and begged for our forgiveness. When Jesus hung on the cross, bleeding and dying, he looked to Heaven and asked God to forgive them because they didn't know what they did. THAT is true forgiveness. The Roman soldiers did not apologize to Jesus, but He forgave them anyway. HE is our example.
This kind of forgiveness means work in our hearts, and quite possibly no closure. It takes character, and builds character. It's a very hard lesson.
I know, because God has taught me this over the years. I have been offended, I have been hurt, and I have been insulted. Many of these incidents happened with no closure, and some are ongoing. I have also seen these things happen to others. There is a marked difference in the way hurts are handled, as well as their results.
Forgiveness releases us to love the person and pray for them. It leaves the pathway open for a rebuilding of relationships.
Unforgiveness builds bitterness, anger, and resentment. It also causes physical illness and stress on the body. And it destroys relationships.
I hate hard times, but I know from experience that they are the times that cause me to grow the most. A dear friend used to tell me, regarding the lessons to be learned during difficult times, "Don't waste pain." If difficulty is meant to make us stronger, then we should let it do its work.
I appreciate your prayers for my family. If you've ever lost a dear pet (as I know most have) you understand the pain of our family this week. So we appreciate your prayers for our sadness and our healing.