Forgiven Much, So We Love Much

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“My sin is no less shameful than that of my brother, and before God, I am no better. That is the beauty of Emmanuel for me this Christmas.”

By Saskia Wishart | Twitter: @saskiacw

My fingers trace the photograph. A young woman, tired from hours of labour, smiling in the joy that only a mother knows. She is holding a wrinkled baby, freshly washed, wrapped and placed in her arms. Her first-born son.

Memories come to mind. This little boy sneaking a bucket of ice cream and hiding it under the stairs, inviting his sister to share in the sweet, melted mess. Their confusion over why it didn’t stay cold. Their silly expressions when they are found out covered in the sticky evidence of their transgression. Had it happened today, I am sure it would have been instagrammed and “liked” by all their parents’ friends.

A memory of running through the woods, with sticks masquerading as light sabers. He is always Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia. Building forts, jumping on the trampoline, going up the mountain to snowboard. Memories come faster now: Christmas mornings, playing legos, listening to stories on tape while falling asleep, holding newborn siblings, curling up by the fireplace while reading, bravely walking to school.

The story of my brother, my older brother, my partner in all our imaginative antics, my protector from older kids on the playground, my friend.

Newer memories. Thirteen years old: He stops me and asks if he can hang out with my friends—I have more friends than him—and he wants to do something fun, something cool. I remember brushing him off. I have never forgotten that moment. I wonder what would have happened if I had included him.

Fourteen years old: He had never really been in trouble before, but this time it was big trouble. Someone was bullying him, and he brought his Swiss army knife to school. A knife at school is a really big deal. I remember my parent’s frustration with him. I remember his expulsion.

New school. New friends. It’s easy to make friends with the bad kids when you are a bad kid who got expelled.

Fifteen years old: I remember it was midnight and I sat with my mum outside of a dark house where there had been a party. He hadn’t come home, and there she sat, debating if she should ring the bell. There was no guarantee he was even inside anymore. I sat there and realized my mum didn’t have the answers. Nobody told her what to do when your teenage son doesn’t come home.

And then it got worse. He showed a movie he made at school, it was about crystal meth. I had never seen my dad so angry. How did my 16-year-old brother know how to cook crystal meth?

I remember his friends too. Kids with no families, kids living on the streets. They would come over for dinner; my mum never turned them away. They stank, and one guy’s feet were purple and swollen because he had walked so far without shoes.

We ran in two different worlds. I was embarrassed by him and I hated that he sucked the life from my parents. People who knew my mum gave her looks that cut her heart. Their judgment made me angry. They said things that suggested my parents must have done something really wrong to raise a child like that. Other people promised it was just teenage rebellion that he would grow out of. But people don’t “grow out of” drug addiction.

The roller coaster; the promises and lies, stealing and apologies, tears of joy when he went to drug rehab, tears of anger when he came home. The quiet year when he finished high school and played rugby, the quiet year when he said he became a Christian. Quiet years always ending in a dramatic return to drugs.

I can still feel the fear from when he would break into the house, the fear from the times he lost his temper and would get out of control. The days I thought everything was fine, but in the middle of the night I could hear him sneaking out the front door. I hear the blame in his voice. The desperation begging you to love him, the confusion when he realizes he is hurting you but he doesn’t really know why.

Life with a drug addict is a silent and humiliating battle. Your fight is stomped out with every relapse. Deep inside you ache as they take and take and take and never understand when you say enough is enough. You feel shame as society reminds you over and over that your family has missed the mark.

A dozen years of heartbreak does damage to your family. You laugh about it, you cry about it, you go on as best you can, but underneath there is this black shadow when you look forward and wonder if it will ever come to an end.

And then there was the day my mother called me to tell me he had been arrested and charged. I was not surprised. But then she told me what he had been charged with.

He had hurt someone.

Even now, my heart screams no as I type this out.

Not that. Anything else I can forgive him for, but not that.

Four years of my life I have dedicated to addressing issues of injustice. Four years I have spoken up on behalf of girls who are abused, exploited, and enslaved. Helping those who have been hurt.

I have discussed with girls the ups and downs of testifying. I have encouraged them to seek justice if that is what they want to do.

But when it came to my brother, I thought, there must be a mistake. The person must be exaggerating. It can’t be true.

And there, in that place where I desperately wanted it to be someone else’s fault, someone else’s family, some other crime, I faced the horror of my own selfishness. I didn’t want this person to seek justice, because it would mean the shame of having that mess in my family.

Two years later, we are facing the first Christmas without him. He is serving his sentence.

The fear, the anger, the wild range of emotions, they have settled. Grace abounds and forgiveness is a hard-fought battle.

Our family will gather together, and there will be pieces missing. The “with” of being together makes the pain of the one we are without that much stronger.

Scriptures tells us that God so loved the whole world that He sent His son to die. The good news of great joy for all people is that we are forgiven. Our mistakes, all of them, are covered. My sin is no less shameful than that of my brother, and before God, I am no better. That is the beauty of Emmanuel for me this Christmas.

We are forgiven much, and so we love much, and through the reality of that love, we can extend forgiveness to those who have inflicted some of our deepest pain.

_________________

About Saskia:

My name is Saskia. Pronounced (sus-key-a). Cool Fact: Saskia means “valley of light.” The coolest part about that fact is that I have the greatest job, bringing light into some of the darkest places in our society. Exposing modern slavery on the streets of South Africa, in the brothels of Europe and anywhere else I am sent.

My passion-–abolition. My calling–Freedom. My equipping-–A crazy love rescue.

I am not organised, not a good sleeper and not a multi-tasker; thank goodness I am a problem solver.

I love my country—Canada, drinking coffee, creating beautiful things and Cape Town (which was my home for three years). I miss the mountains, snowboarding, surfing and all things natural as I make my way in the city of Amsterdam (my new home).
_________________

Image credit: Mike Baird courtesy of Creative Commons.

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Saskia Wishart
My name is Saskia. Pronounced (sus-key-a).Cool Fact: Saskia means "valley of light." The coolest part about that fact is that I have the greatest job, bringing light into some of the darkest places in our society. Exposing modern slavery on the streets of South Africa, in the brothels of Europe and anywhere else I am sent. My passion – Abolition. My calling - Freedom. My equipping – A crazy love rescue I am not organised, not a good sleeper, and not a multi-tasker, thank goodness I am a problem solver. I love my country – Canada, drinking coffee, creating beautiful things, and Cape Town (which was my home for the last three years). I miss the mountains, snowboarding, surfing, and all things natural as I make my way in the city of Amsterdam (my new home).
Saskia Wishart
Saskia Wishart

Latest posts by Saskia Wishart (see all)

Saskia Wishart
  • “We are forgiven much, and so we love much, and through the reality of that love, we can extend forgiveness to those who have inflicted some of our deepest pain.”

    On so many levels your story echoed my own life. Thank you for sharing your heart and I must say I agree completely with forgiveness being extended to those who have had a hand in inflicting our deepest pains. I am living proof and though my pain often aches, I am free.

    Thank you for sharing…

    • “…and though my pain often aches, I am free.” Beautiful. So thankful it resonated with your own life!

  • Amy Englemark

    Hi Saskia,
    I loved reading your article. It resonated with me because my family has a background that’s not all that sparkly either. I really appreciate your raw reality of life replayed. And OH, the beauty of forgiveness for the ‘hurt’ and the ‘hurter’. Thanks again, 🙂 Amy

    • Ah thank-you for reading and commenting! I think it is so hard to come to terms with the less-than-sparkly side of family. But it is real, and it can make us so much more gracious with those around us.

  • You are so so beautiful and I imagine many prayers going out for your brother following this. Thank you for sharing more of your story and your heart.

    • I am thankful for all the prayers, and for the opportunity to share my heart on the beautiful platform that is sheloves!

  • Christie Esau

    Oh, how God loves to work through those One Things that we won’t do, the lines we won’t cross. The moment we have all our ethics sorted out, God comes storming in to tell us “YES!”, and we need that, don’t we?

    Many thanks for sharing this Saskia. Prayers as you cope with the together and the without, especially at this time of year.

    • Thank-you for the prayers, and yes it is funny how the moment we think we have got it figured out things get spun around on us, and everything changes. It is humbling.

  • Abby

    I think shame is Satan’s most vicious tool. We can experience it because of our own actions, other’s action, unkind words, lies and the truth. It can sever relationships and lead one to despair. But the forgiveness of Jesus cures all that. And that forgiveness shining out through us can bring them to Christ’s healing. I admire you!
    http://www.predatory-lies.com

    • Sigh. Forgiveness is such a battle for me when I think of going home for the holidays, but praying for healing for many of my family members this season. There is a bigger story at work here.

  • As hard as it is on one level, at some point, you have to just do it. Today is the day.

  • Lindsay&Josh

    You are amazing Saskia… thank you for sharing this part of your heart with everyone! We miss you <3 Many prayers to you and your family over this holiday season.

    • Oh Lindsay, thanks for your response, I saw on FB that you have also had some hard things going on this year. Will be praying that you have a beautiful Christmas celebrating the health of your family! Lots of love to you and Josh!

  • JoyCaoimhe

    wow. Thank you. Our deepest longings, hurts, and confusions are the hardest thing to sit with and the most life giving. Thank you for the gift of sitting with your story, all of it both happy and painful.

  • fiona lynne

    Thank you for your courage and vulnerability to share your story. It’s heart breaking and beautiful all at the same time. Praying for your whole family this Christmas.

    • Definitely appreciating the prayers Fiona, thank-you!

  • Tania

    God Bless You and your vocation, Saskia! Your family, especially your brother will be in our prayers very specially this Christmas. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • John Shepard

    Saskia, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to identify with the pain your loved one has caused. Yet the hope you help us all see in the One who carries the pain of us all.