And Which Eagle Are You? Forgiveness Even in the Shadow of Ravensbrück – Asbury University
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And Which Eagle Are You? Forgiveness Even in the Shadow of Ravensbrück

July 24, 2023

Thane Ury ’80

A tavern once had an eagle for a mascot. The beautiful bird was quite the local attraction. But being on a leash, it basically waddled around in a 6-foot radius, living off the crumbs tossed to it by patrons. A later owner saw this as a bit inhumane. And thinking that the bird was homesick for the clouds, he cut it free. Obviously this meant he’d never see it again.

But instead of maximizing its “get out of jail free card,” instead of soaring back to its aerial kingdom, instead of once again feeling the living wind coarse through its wings…the eagle just stayed right there, wobbling around in circles, eating discarded scraps, and bound to invisible chains, forsaking the sky for which it was made.

In her classic, THE HIDING PLACE, Corrie ten Boom tells of her traumatic days in a concentration camp. For the crime of hiding Jews, her entire family died. The indignities she endured were crippling.

Years later she was sharing in a Munich church. After the service, a man approached her, introducing himself as one of the guards at Ravensbrück. That camp was a living hell where 92,000 women and children died. Instantly, the pain re-exploded in Corrie’s memory. She recalled him as one of the cruelest guards. He had humiliated and degraded both she and her sister, Betsie.

So here was this vile man, thrusting an outstretched hand toward her, saying: “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away [too]!” He added, “Will you forgive me [too]?”

Corrie’s heart and hand were paralyzed. Though she had preached repeatedly over the years on the necessity of forgiveness, here she couldn’t move. “Angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me,” she said. “Jesus Christ had died for this man,” but here I was asking for more!” She cried, Lord “help me to forgive him!” But her hand still didn’t budge. There wasn’t the slightest spark of warmth or charity toward him.

She later shared of the coldness that was boa-constricting her heart. Her mind, however, knew that the will could still function regardless of her heart’s temperature. So she silently cried: “Jesus, help me…I cannot forgive him. Give me YOUR forgiveness.”

Her hand began to move—woodenly and mechanically, sure—but it moved. In a moment her hand was actually in his. And then an incredible thing happened. She said, a “current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arm, and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands—former guard and former prisoner—I have never known the love of God as intensely as I did in that moment.”

I submit to you that had Corrie not been able to actually practice what she preached—forgiving the vilest of the vile—she would have remained invisibly tethered just like that pathetic eagle. Sure, she could’ve remained quite the attraction as a concentration camp survivor! Sure, she could’ve strutted and flapped her wings very eagle-like. Sure, fawning parishioners would have continued to toss her accolades everywhere she spoke. Sure.

But in a real sense she would have been confined to wobbling in a 6-foot radius. Despite being cut free by The Bearer, she would’ve been just a pathetically fettered soul like any of us, unwilling to soar in the emancipating clouds of forgiveness. Nor would she have maximized her “get out of hell free card,” and bathed in healing winds as forgiveness coursed through her bruised wings. No, she would’ve just remained grounded, wobbling in circles, eating scraps, bound to invisible chains, and forsaking the sky for which she was made.

“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” Isaiah 40:31

There’s always someone we struggle to forgive. Always! But given verses like Mt 6:14-15, 18:21-22; Mk 11:25; Col 3:13; and Eph 4:32, it’s crystal clear how serious the Lord is that we forgive others. To do such is to actually free two people.

Corrie knew she had no right to withhold forgiveness, even when her pain was beyond searing. Yet she found a way. Yahweh will help us too, but first we’ve got to decide what kind of eagle we want to be.