The Power in Forgiveness

By Rev. Richard Maraj

I had visualized this happening time after time for years: I was behind the wheel of my car, stopped at an intersection. Then the very person who had ruined my life walked in front of my car. With a terror-stricken face, he turned to look at me, just as I hurled the car forward at full throttle.

Now—right before my eyes—my revenge fantasy was about to come true. Or was it? Something had happened that kept me from wanting revenge: I had forgiven him.

In the real happening, the man did turn to look at me, hesitating for a split second—enough time for me to advance the hand lever for the gas, but I didn't. I felt tremendous relief as he waved at me and ran on across the street. At that moment I felt how much forgiveness had healed me, how much forgiveness had freed me.

My Life Fell Apart
My anger at this man began when we were both teenagers. I was riding in a car he was driving, when he fell asleep and my world fell apart.

I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The accident had happened so fast; just after being thrown out of the car, I was hit by the car as it rolled. Covered with blood and in extreme pain, I knew I had been hurt. My anxiety over how badly I had been hurt grew with each passing minute during the ambulance ride.

Suddenly I was jarred out of my thoughts when the doors of the ambulance opened. Immediately I saw a familiar face outside the emergency entrance to the hospital. Love took on visible form in that moment—in the face of my mother. Her love enfolded me, even before she reached my side and kissed my head. Without having to speak a word, she told me through her love and faith that everything would be okay.

Never Lose Faith
Later, however, when I learned I was paralyzed from the waist down, I thought my life was over, at least the life I had known as an athlete—I was captain of the basketball team and the city high-jump champion. I lost all faith—in God and in myself—but my mother's faith never wavered. She continued to love me and pray for me. Even seeing me at my worst—physically and emotionally—she never lost faith or gave up on me.

One of my worst times came when Mother was exercising my legs, doing for me what I could no longer do for myself. Feeling anger over my condition, I lashed out, yelling and thrashing my arms in the air. I knocked over a lamp and a nearby basket of clothes. I hit the pillow, the wall and then my head.

Mom knew when to speak and when to be still. After I had finished venting, she calmly picked up the lamp and the clothes, tapped my leg, and said, “Let's keep going.” Then she started exercising my legs again.
The day I was injured, neither the boy driving nor my girlfriend, who was sitting in the back, was injured. And I hated that boy for what he had done to me. I took pleasure in revenge fantasies, ways I could pay him back. That hate was crippling me more than the paralysis.

A Message for Me
One day Mom planted the seed of forgiveness that I so desperately needed to nurture. She left on a table the little magazine she read every day, and I picked it up. I knew Daily Word had helped her have faith, so I opened it to the message for that day. As I read, I had an overwhelming feeling that someone had written that message just for me. It was on forgiveness—how the person who forgives is always first to be blessed.

That message held a mirror up to me and said, “Brother, look at what you are doing to yourself.” I understood that through forgiveness I had the power to free myself from the hate that was ruining my life.

Forgiveness was the beginning of a new life for me. That new life has not been easy, but it is always meaningful. I'm a minister now—driving, traveling by air and walking, all with the aid of braces and crutches. I love and appreciate life now, even more than I did before the accident.

The eighth of 10 children, Rev. Richard Maraj was born on the island of Trinidad and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Prior to his ordination in 1998, he was a professional speaker and long-time member of the National Speakers Association and Toastmasters International. Rev. Maraj is lead minister at Unity of Phoenix in Arizona.