Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vision and Forgetfulness

Having seen the movie "Hotel Rwanda" I wasn't so sure I wished to read a book on this same dark subject.   During a conversation a friend and I were having about current affairs in Africa, she asked if I had read the book "Rwanda - A Walk Through Darkness into Light", published in 1995 barely a year past the terrible events of April 1994.  She had just finished it and it was right there on her sofa table. 

It is written by Carl Lawrence who is a Christian and who is blessed with the ability to interweave personal stories with outside perspective in a very compelling and understandable way.  It took me several weeks to get through the book and I finished it yesterday.  Here are a couple of excerpts from a book that are just precious, which I do not want to forget.

I share them here with you and hope they bless you as they have me.

By this time in the book the author has the reader follow the journey of a Tutsi woman from miraculous escape from death and hiding, to a refugee camp.  At the time the author visits this camp, the Hutus who had carried out the atrocities were also refugees at the camp because the once exiled RFP army was gaining control of large parts of Rwanda and the Hutus needed a place to hide.  Lawrence writes:

It has been said that in the Bukavu area . . . the refugee men from the ages of 15 to 25 have killed about 40 people each. 
While reaching out to these people, the thoughts, the sneaky little demons, enter your mind:  This man has probably hacked a whole family to death.  I wonder what he would do to you if he had the chance?  I wonder if he would do it again?  He's looking at you.  Look at his eyes, he hates you.  He wants to kill you.  Those thoughts are perfectly human and normal.
It's hard to remember we serve a God who has the beautiful attribute of forgetfulness.  He is capable -- and would love doing it -- of saying to a Hutu murderer who has been redeemed by His Son, "What murders?  I don't remember any murders.  Gabriel, do you remember any murders this man committed?"  Gabriel, of course, would look in that vast and wonderfully forgetful book and reply no.  If the God we serve chooses to forget all the wrongs done to Him (for each wrong done is really directed to Him), then we must learn to put aside our humanity and look beyond sin to the soul.  It is absolutely necessary if we are to survive and excel in a sin-filled world.  We must look at every person as God would see him.  We must remember to forget.  Somebody called this philosophy "flippant, given the gravity of the situation."  I would much rather think of it as biblical -- not easy, but a command to be followed.  It is easy to remember, for we are human and never forget.  It is hard, and a test of godly character, to forget. . . .
Later in the book, Carl Lawrence talks about lessons we should learn and our responsibility toward these types of events, referencing Isaiah 6:1-5:
In rather simplistic, non-theological terms, what are some of the lessons we are to learn from Rwanda and other crisis areas?
1.  Isaiah's eyes were put on God, 'high and lifted up."  Seeing the holiness and glory of God completely changed his perspective of his nation's crisis.
2.  When Isaiah saw God, he cried out, "Woe is me...I am undone."  I have been looking at the problem through my own eyes.  No wonder my vision is blurred.  "I am undone!"  Everything I was so proud of, those things I put such trust in have fallen apart.  My talents, my dedication, my "compassion," my abilities, my "pure" motives, have been seen as "unclean."  I thought I was collecting jewels for a crown, but I am really little more than a garbage collector! 
There is nothing quite so sad as having sight but lacking vision-- having sight but not seeing.
We now see that our responsibility is not to solve all the problems of the world, but to see God, to be reminded that they are His problems, and if we want to participate in solving them we must see them through His eyes.  But first, we must see Him.
It will make a difference when someone looks us in the face and spits out the question, "Where was that God of yours when those young hoodlums killed my family?"  We can reply, tearfully and humbly, "He was in the same place as the day hoodlums like you and me nailed His only Son to a cross.  He was there, high and lifted up, with outstretched arms.  Stretched out not to rescue His son from our widkedness, but to hold back His armies of angels until in the fullness of time He could redeem our wickedness.  God is concerned not only with a temporary rescue from suffering, but with eternal redemption.
I love this emphasis that we are to look to God, otherwise these things are so discouraging, debilitating, overwhelming!!  He wants us to see with Him!

I hope this encourages you to praise the God

 . . . who has called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  I Peter 2:9b

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, enighter the present nor the future, nor any powers, neighter height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39
Scripture excerpts from New International Version of the Christian Holy Bible.


  1. WOW! That is all I can think to say! I have to read this again and really take it in. What a powerful book to read!

    1. AnnMarie: I was a little hesitant to put this in the blog blitz because it deals with such a dark subject! I am praying it will be an encouragement to see ourselves and others the way God sees us through Jesus His Son. There is none so low He cannot reach them through the Cross.

  2. VERY powerful words!! I'm glad you posted this. I think so many people tend to forget the way Jesus lived his life when he was on earth. He harbored no bitterness, He loved and most importantly he FORGAVE. Thanks to the blood Jesus shed for us, ALL come come to know HIM as their Saviour. Our sins are washed clean . . . I loved the part that said "We must look at every person the way God would see them . .we must remember to forget" Thanks for sharing this! :)

    1. Thanks, Kim. I really appreciate your response.

  3. Sounds like a really life changing book. I will have a look for it.

    1. This is the only book I've read by Carl Lawrence. He has several books out - about different nations he has travelled to. He won an award for a book titled "The Church in China". He really did a good job keeping my interest through this one on Rwanda, paperback, 189 pages.