The black covering billowed as she prayed. A silent voice hidden in plain view. In public she was private. In private she prayed in her secret room. She raised her voice in her heart only, not brave enough or foolish enough to shout aloud. She was small, she thought. She was a whisper. No matter. Her prayer rang at the gates of Heaven and the ground shook beneath her feet.
Everywhere she stepped belonged to her, the dusty street between her door and the waiting car, the market stall, her children's school, the library, and the home of her dear, dark, disbelieving friend. She hoped her prayer would reach the seat of power. She hoped her world would open to the truth. The shadow had covered them for so long.
She had to see the answer. She had to know. She cried out with no sound, not even a breath, straight into the darkness where she knew the light had set up camp. And a hundred miles away, in the city center of a great world capital, the ground rumbled. It rattled with transformation, creating a ripple certain to undo many years of damage, to restore, renew and rebuild.
The earthquake spread out, gaining speed as it went. She didn't feel it at first, just went about her regular day cleaning pots and slicing carrots and folding clothes. Then in one sudden moment it arrived at her doorstep, because she had been heard.
You know when something profound shows up in an unexpected place? It abruptly leaps up and shouts, "I am everywhere you look!"
I've been watching Star Trek lately. People with plastic stuck to their faces. Warp speed. Technology even more impressive than this flat, square thing I am typing on. The stories of Star Trek take us far out into space and introduce us to alien worlds to tell us about ourselves.
My unexpected hero is the spotted, colorful alien Neelix on Star Trek Voyager. He's helpful and kind, usually trying to please everyone. We know a few harrowing details of his past, the war that claimed most of his world and left few survivors, his hope of reunion with his lost family in the afterlife. But there's more to Neelix than that.
For one thing, he's a funny looking guy with troll hair and a fiendish taylor. He's a character on a television show. Does anything good happen on television? Uh...
Neelix meets a man named Jetrel, the scientist who developed the weapon that destroyed Neelix's world. By the time he and Neelix cross paths, the man has come to his senses and lost his mind with guilt. He will do anything to bring back the people he killed. He is consumed with an invention that will reconstruct all that the original weapon destroyed, literally reassembling people out of thin air. However, he is simply unable to make it work. He can not undo the damage he caused. He can not bring anyone back. His grief is palpable. He doesn't have much time left. He is dying, from the same poison that killed his victims. He has also lost his family because of what he did. Now he is losing his life.
Jetrel is not entirely sympathetic. He blames others, saying he only made the weapon, others used it. He says he saved lives by ending the war. But he is a broken, desperate man, unable to redeem himself even with lies. He is rotting in the immense weight of his sins, trapped, held down, and now dying physically as well.
Neelix hates him. He has every right to. The man is guilty. Neelix is still suffering.
Neelix, goofy, underestimated Neelix, does something that startles, shocks, and restores me. Lovable, childlike, internally grieving Neelix solemnly enters sick bay to confront his ailing enemy. Will he finally unleash years of anger and loss on Jetrel? Maybe he will gloat in his enemy's painful death. But what Neelix does instead is subtle and sudden.
He says simply, "I forgive you."
Neelix forgives and, in the process, sets himself free and stuns his now dying adversary (and me). Jetrel passes away with an expression of astonishment and gratitude on his face.
Why did he do it? There is something innocent in the character of Neelix. He wants to fix, repair, and heal. We find out in this episode that Neelix has a strong sense of his own failings as well. He has a dignified humility, but it comes from knowing his own guilt. He longs to set people free, to heal. When Neelix forgave Jetrel he became better somehow. He was restored.
Jetrel is episode 15, season 1 of Star Trek Voyager
Sara Weaver is the young girl, now grown woman, who survived Ruby Ridge in August of 1992. For 10 days, her family was under siege in the mountains of Northern Idaho. Her brother and mother were killed by snipers, her mother while she was holding her youngest child in her arms. Sara's father and a family friend were wounded. They even shot and killed the Weaver's dog.
William Shatner interviewed her on his show Aftermath. Sara talks frankly about her feelings at the time. She had no idea who was attacking them and why. She had lost her younger brother, who was her best friend, and her Mom.
On the outside we heard the news stories of the Idaho compound surrounded by federal officers. We heard about the dangerous people hiding out at Ruby Ridge. Sara, meanwhile, heard the same officers calling out to her and her family, asking them to come out into the open. She was terrified.
What were the gunmen thinking? Probably each and every one of them feared for their lives. They thought they were confronting a subversive group. They thought they were doing the right thing. But as the siege ended and the investigation began, grave questions arose about the law enforcement branches involved, evidence, motives, and responsibility. Horrific is an understatement. Sara Weaver was just 16 years old and her whole life had changed in those 10 days...because of a mistake?
When she told William Shatner she had forgiven them, I thought he looked genuinely shocked. I was. Why? She had every reason not to forgive. But I could see the peace on her face and hear comfort in her voice. She was free. She said she forgives others because Jesus has forgiven her. That was hard to hear because Sara forgave something much worse than anything she could have ever done. Forgiveness is not an even scale.
I wonder if the gunman who killed her mother has heard her story.
Sometimes forgiveness is mistaken for approval or, worse, betrayal. But the very act of forgiveness is a pronouncement of guilt. You cannot forgive someone who is innocent.
I don't know that I've ever seen such an engaging or astonishing story about forgiveness. How did she do it? Sara Weaver said God gave her the capacity to forgive. That is the only explanation I have for it, whether someone forgives a small slight or a life-changing act. I think it takes something more than we have on our own. I think it's a gift.
Sara Weaver's story is on Aftermath, Season 1, Episode 5, Ruby Ridge.
I know an inordinate number of adoptive families. They just seem to be everywhere. I am so passionate and supportive of it, though I am having a hard time understanding why. I don't think we'll adopt.
But somehow this is a Thing in my heart. It just inspires me and, when I hear of someone doing it, I want to shout, "Woohoooo! Bring them home!" And to the adoptees, "You are not alone!"
So I started this blog (a decade behind the trend, as always) and have been thinking about why adoption moves me so. It occured to me that I feel adopted. The way my life is...I just feel brought in, rescued, given a place, a family. I feel like I am cheering for "my people" when someone is adopted.