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God Forgave Me, So I Can Forgive You
by Harold E. Palmer, JR, BSN, M. Div.

One day, while working on medical-surgical ward, I was called into room 305 to lift a patient out of her hospital bed into a wheel chair. To this day I still don't understand what happened, but as I lifted her out of bed my knee gave out and I dropped the woman on the floor. As she bounced off the hard floor, the complexion of her skin turned from white, to pink, to green, to blue as she cried out. That high pitched sound of her crying out in great pain, suffering and distress cut deep into every part of my being. Looking back on that day, the lighting in the room became dark as an apprehension I had never felt before overtook me.

Overcome with grief, I ran out of the room and hid in the closet down the hallway. Cursing myself a hundred thousand times. I shed tears until it seemed as if the body itself was emptied of water that was life itself, ultimately leaving me feeling lifeless.

Then there was a knock on the door. As the door swung open, I knew my young career in the nursing industry had come to an end. However, it was not my supervisor who stood before me, but one of the aides working on the floor that day. In a hoarse voice she said to me, “The woman in room 305 wants to see you. Oh! By the way, it took more than six of us working together to get that heavy woman off the floor." Slowly I moved out of the corner of the linen closet where I had sought to escape from it all, and took the long walk back to room 305.

The whole scene felt like something out of a prison movie. With each step I took, I blamed myself for everything. The nursing staff stood to the side, watching me walk the last mile towards my end. In truth, I wanted to die right there, on the spot, rather then look upon the face of the woman that I had caused so much pain and suffering. "Yes! I did it. I am the guilty one; it is I who have done her wrong…"

The woman was Dr. Emma Brown. She was a surgeon who had been in a car accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. When I entered the room she looked at me and said, "Pick up your head.” I had walked into the room with my head down because I didn't want to look into her eyes.

When I lifted my head our eyes met. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. If that is true, this woman witnessed me in my sorrow and my remorse on that day. Yes! This woman looked deep into my soul and saw my pain. I felt my hurt as I saw her pain and witnessed her disablement and paralysis. Then she did something that was odd and strange to me, something I will never forget. She asked me if I was ready to lift her out of the bed once again. I was in shock!

So once again I carried out my nursing techniques, placing my hands and my body in the right position. The aides helped me move her to the side of the bed. Then I took her in my arms and smoothly lifted that woman up off the bed carefully over into the wheel chair. As I left the room, I turned and asked her why she gave me a second chance. She said, "I serve a God who has forgiven me, so I can forgive you."

I believe God's grace is always given, and always available to us all. Yet oftentimes we do not realize it. When amazing things happen, many of us call it luck; or we see something happen, and we seek to find a way to explain the unexplainable. However, when amazing things happen beyond our control, SOMEHOW the lights can come on.

I don't know how one obtains enlightenment, but I do know for certain that something happened to me that day. I knew that what was happening had nothing to do with my efforts and I had nothing to do with the outcome of the situation. Yes, I experienced it and was involved in it, but the dynamics of it all took place on another level -- somewhere far, far away, in a celestial world beyond the reasoning powers of man.

As I stood in amazement before this woman, I was lost in the awesomeness of it all. Dr. Brown had learned to love herself as well as others. In her darkest moments, I received the grandest expression of what she held to be true. For she had full trust in herself and in me. The woman's request, and her verbal response to my question, communicated God's love and forgiveness to me in a powerful way. On this day, I was consciously aware of the blessings that I had received.

Dr. Brown's calmness of spirit is what Paul referred to when he wrote about the peace that surpasses all understanding. In my view, what happened that day was a jaw-dropping moment. For in my pain, loneliness and self-recrimination, I received a second chance rather than being given a good old fashioned tongue-lashing.

As I left her room, I very much wanted to know for myself what it was she knew. I wanted to know the real deal. I had been a witness to the power of grace in action. I had firsthand knowledge about a dramatic event that took place right before my eyes. Yet, calling upon my mental skills seemed futile. After all my second guessing, I could not come up with an answer as to how this woman who was broken, hurt, and in pain was empowered from above and within.

In my view, Dr. Brown was truly a saved person, regardless of her emotional feelings about the car accident and the process of confronting (as all of us do) pain and suffering in the daily struggles that were hers. She was not empty of spiritual joy…a serenity that placed her in a state of calmness on the stormy seas that made up her life situation. It was as if living life with a consuming passion for it was giving her strength in a time of need. That day, when I looked upon her face, she appeared set free from it all. Somehow in her discomfort, distress, soreness, tenderness, agony, and anguish, she continued to focus on God in her life, and found strength in herself to deal with everything that had happened to her.

On that day, I wanted answers. I wanted to have a personal relationship with God. On that day I was given a gift that no words or personal testimony can describe. God’s grace became real to me. I knew it was not about the woman per say, but it was about the faith that she held as true. Looking back on it all I realize that there was something so powerful and so awesome, that even today it consumes me and overwhelms my senses.

Thirty years ago I could not articulate what I learned that day. Yet if I dared to put it into words, it would be in terms of spirituality. For some, words such as spirituality and religion are used synonymously. I differentiate spirituality from religion by explaining that spirituality involves fully living a meaningful, purposeful life, while religion entails engaging in traditional practices, ceremonies, and dogma in religious institutions.

The day Dr. Brown told me the reason why she gave me a second chance, I entered what a writer once coined as the “Heroic Journey.” For me, it is a walk of faith toward knowing Thy Self. In this way I began to pursue a course of action and live out a way of life that would lead me into the mysterious and the unknown, Myself.


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