LUIS RIVERA // U.S. NAVY SEAL
Luis was always in control of the situation. He always protected his team. Right up until the moment he couldn’t. God helped Luis through his struggles with guilt. Find out how He wants to help you, too.
Finding forgiveness through a <span>transformed heart</span>
“No one could ever forgive me. No one could ever love me. I am so ashamed of the horrific things that I’ve done in my life.” When we honestly look back on our lives, we all might have expressed these very words at times. These statements were said in anguish by a Veteran named Tommy.
When Tommy first came to our VA facility to wait for his heart transplant, he told me that he wasn’t an overly spiritual person, but stated that he’d enjoy casually talking to me. A relationship of trust and caring support developed. Three weeks after receiving his heart transplant, Tommy stated, “We need to talk.” Tommy began by saying, “I came here to get a new heart, but I do not think that my heart transplant is complete yet. Something tells me that you are the person who might help to make it complete.”
Tommy continued to tell me that he really wanted a new spiritual heart. He stated, “I want a heart that is healed of all the really awful things that I’ve been carrying around in this old heart of mine. I just have to have some peace of mind and heart.” I told him that I was certainly willing to listen to him and offer him support. Tommy then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, before I can consider a new heart of hope, I gotta tell you about this old evil heart … and it is not pretty.” He stretched out his hand to me, looked me straight in the eye, and directly asked, “Are you willing to go back to Vietnam with me?” I took Tommy’s hand in mine, and replied, “Tommy, if you trust me to tell me your story, I trust you to take me on your heart’s journey back to Vietnam.”
What transpired in the following two hours was a gut-wrenching and heartfelt outpouring of locked-up stories of deep despair and painstaking memories. Tommy was a Marine sniper in Vietnam, and his horrific stories made him tremble as he recalled vivid details. After a time of sharing specifically about his time in Vietnam, Tommy stated, “But do you know what the worst hell was? It was when I came home. I just couldn’t stop fighting. I was a professionally trained killer. I couldn’t stop hating and wanting to kill.” Tommy, now with tears streaming down his face, told me of the very destructive behaviors that characterized his life here in the States after he returned home.
Finally Tommy looked at me and said, “How could anyone love me after all the evil I’ve done? Could God ever come near me and forgive me? I’m such a mess! Is it at all possible for God to forgive me and provide me with a new heart of hope, healing, and peace?”
Some of my first words were, “Oh yes, Tommy, it is in the depth of our brokenness that God meets us.” I affirmed to Tommy that God is near to the broken-hearted, and is able to bring peace to the most evil of hearts. Tommy and I continued to talk of God as the spiritual cardiologist who takes our disgusting old hearts and transplants a new heart of lovingkindness inside us. In the time that I spent with Tommy, we took each one of the bad heart-throbbing memories and gave it to God to forgive and remove from Tommy. Then we took God’s words of healing, forgiveness, and hope, and claimed these words of truth as the new heartbeats by which Tommy would live his life. What a joy it was to hear Tommy tell of his spiritual heart transplant and the healing that had taken place in his life.
In this topic, we’ll consider if God is disappointed in us when we do wrong, how we confess our wrongs to God, and how to accept God’s forgiveness.
BY CHAPLAIN JULIANA LESHER, M.DIV., BCC, AND CHAPLAIN DICK MILLSPAUGH
Let go of guilt and shame
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