Holly Scroggins attends Wood River Assembly of God in Wood River, Illinois. Last June, she was driving a little VW Beetle with her 4– and 9–year old sons in the back of the car, when Timothy Barnhart attempted to pass in his SUV, he crashed into her car and killed both boys. Holly survived, but was was severely injured with shattered bones in her thigh, kneecap, ankle and foot. Her liver was damaged and she needed two blood transfusions to survive. She spent three months in the hospital while friends and coworkers raised money for the expense.
Barnhart also survived, but is still in recovery. Charges are pending.
I usually read newspaper accounts of people’s praise to God for taking them through tragedy prepared to wince. So often, people praise God for their safety at other people’s expense. Their praise seems insensitive, unbalanced, unaware that bad things simply happen to good people because we live in a fallen, unjust world.
But Holly has been well-discipled. I love her comments.
She returned to work recently, and calls her recovery, “truly an act of God.” She doesn’t say God miraculously healed her or protected her–he didn’t, apparently. But giving credit to both God and her caregivers, she says her medical care was top notch. God provided. She doesn’t say God spared her for some reason, she simply and quietly attributes her recovery to God’s grace and leaves it at that. She hasn’t forgotten her sons or the tragedy: she confesses to continued grief, but, “she insists she and her husband are doing well, and she said she has forgiven Barnhart, who still has not been charged in the accident.”
About the driver of the SUV, Barnhart, Holly says:
“People are so quick to justify us and condemn him. I know he didn’t set out that day to kill my children…. I pray this changes him. The way he’s lived his life up until now, from what I’ve been told, was not good.”
She’s forgiven the man who killed her two boys. That’s almost impossible for me to imagine now, with children of my own. But her forgiveness is amazingly balanced with the reality of consequences: Holly’s is not a blind, saccharine forgiveness. When asked about the pending charges against Barnhart, Holly refuses to dwell on it:
“If I do, it controls me. My boys are gone either way. … That’s not anything I’m in control of, and worrying about it doesn’t do any good. He has to answer for his actions, of course. Even though he made bad choices, he still is human. … I want him to change, and I pray this changes him. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
How refreshing to see a balanced sense of forgiveness, justice, and realism in a survivor of tragedy. I’m not sure I’d be able to say what Holly has said, and if I said it, I’m not sure I’d mean it. Holly is clearly the example of a spiritually transformed person for whom all adversity produces hope, and who finds peace and joy in even the darkest adversity.
This amazes me. I grieve for Holly and her husband—and I’m a stranger hundreds of miles away. And I admire them. I pray to God I learn from her without walking in her shoes.
[tags]BlogRodent, Pentecostal, Assemblies-of-God, Assembly-of-God, Missouri, tragedy, grief, theodicy, pain, depression, justice, forgiveness, theology[/tags]