June 24, 2011

A Means to an End

This is going to be a mini-series of posts on the topic of forgiveness. I have been deliberating over this topic for nearly a month now. In fact, the bulk of what I'm going to write at this time on this topic was writing itself when I woke up from a dream on a Tuesday a few weeks ago. I immediately grabbed my notebook, and it literally wrote itself. Here's what I wrote that morning:

Forgiveness is not an end in itself, rather it is a means to an end, and that end is reconciliation.

Forgiveness is not easy for us. We have very few good models of forgiveness, in or out of churches. When was the last time you heard your dad say, "I'm sorry."?

Perhaps your mom said "I'm sorry" for every little thing, as though apologizing for her very existence rather than for her hurtful behavior.

The best example in my life of forgiveness as a means to reconciliation was Pastor Steve Johnson and his wife Pam. Their daughter, Theresa, was abducted a couple of years before I met them. In fact, she was abducted and murdered only one year after moving to my hometown to pastor what would soon after become my home church.

Circa 1998
Two years old, taken from her front porch, with her six-year-old brother as the only witness. I knew her story  mainly by hearsay, but I watched her family walk out the ministry of reconciliation firsthand. I began attending their church when I was thirteen, a couple of years after Theresa's abduction. I had the great privilege of being a regular babysitter for Theresa and her brother during my teen years. On at least one occasion, I got to eat dinner with their family before Steve and Pam left for an engagement, and it was here that all the rumors I had heard were confirmed.

When I was in Prison
Schoolmates had mentioned that it was Steve's regular custom to offer daily prayers for the salvation and healing of the young man who abducted Theresa, who was in jail at that time for his crime against their family. I heard one such prayer the night I shared a meal with them and later learned that not only did they pray for him daily, Steve visited him in jail regularly to minister the gospel of Jesus' forgiveness and love available even for one who had caused so much heartache.

I'm sure you may be a little confused about Theresa at this point, given that she was killed when she was two, before I met her family, yet I babysat her several years later. Yes, Theresa was resurrected from the dead through the power of the Living God, Jesus Christ, flowing through the faith, hands, and prayers of a community of believers. You can read the full story online here: How God Orchestrated A Miracle.

Many news articles were written. Here is one from the Seattle Times, written when the book was released, eleven years after Theresa's miracle.

Theresa in the hospital
Not only was she made alive again, but she was restored to perfect health and is as beautiful and filled with life as ever. Her resurrection and restoration to full health were not instant. Her battle for life and wholeness took a toll on her family and community, but faith in the power of God to restore and redeem prevailed, and Theresa has no lingering effects of brain damage or the physical taxation of death.

Theresa, age 15
I did not lead with the message of her resurrection, because no matter how miraculous her testimony, it is not the most powerful element of this family's story for me. I believe the fundamental element of their family's impact on my life is that they daily lived as models of the ministry of reconciliation, and their example led a community of believers into the first fruits of revival. It is the power of God in signs and wonders that healed their little girl, but it was their response of genuine forgiveness that healed their family and community.


  1. Well, Angela you blew me away with this. I had no idea! Our lives have surely not felt as powerful as the words I read and remind myself of the horror and warfare we have lived to continue to walk in this miracle. Tess (as she is now called) lives it EVERY day. At the age o26 she is just as lovely and working out her salvation. Steve is definately a man of kindness and worthy of my honor and respect. I love him so. I am the warrior mom who loves my family desperately and am so very gladJesus chose me and forgave me so I can love others! I am still very excited to follow your travels into forgiveness. As we have continued to experience it is a life challenge to live in forgiveness,
    By the way: The book is no longer in print, so online is the only way to read the account and testimonies. THank you for honoring GOd by sharing this! Love ya, P

  2. Oh, Angela, what a fabulous post! Very touching and good to be reminded not to take miracles, including the miracle of restoration, lightly.