When You Can't Forgive

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Laurie's father was murdered. She didn't think she could ever forgive her father's killer.
Laurie's father was murdered. She didn't think she could ever forgive her father's killer. (iStockPhoto)

If you asked anyone who knew Laurie A. Coombs, they would tell you what an incredibly strong person she was—the kind of person who can make it through anything. As Coombs details in her new memoir, Letters from My Father's Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness that outward veneer of strength masked a crumbling interior.

SpiritLed Woman: Almost immediately after learning about your father's death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?

Coombs: My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger quite literally consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldn't have wanted me to live like that, so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.

I didn't see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it. In reality, I had simply unintentionally buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.

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SpiritLed Woman: What was it like for you to return to college and complete your daily classes and tasks after such a life-altering event?

Coombs: Oh, that was hard. Nothing was the same after the murder. It all seemed pointless. The way I viewed just about everything had changed. My entire life had shifted in one moment, yet I knew I had to move on. I didn't want to. I wanted to escape my life and pretend like nothing had happened. But I knew I couldn't just stop doing life. I had to press on. I didn't see any other choice, so I just sort of did it.

SpiritLed Woman: How did this experience change how you view the attitude toward violence in the media?

Coombs: Initially, I couldn't do the things I did before the murder. I stopped watching TV, I turned off the news, I carefully screened movies to protect myself from seeing any type of violence, and of course, the rap music I once listened to was definitely out. Honestly, I just couldn't take it. All around me, throughout most of our culture, I saw an unhealthy fascination with murder. Rappers glorifying it. Television shows depicting it to boost ratings. Movies using it to entice audiences. Kids running around, saying, "I'm going to kill you!" like it's no big thing. We have murder-mystery dinner parties. Murder-mystery board games. True crime TV shows. We're glorifying it. Sensationalizing it. Because, after all, murder sells, right?

Seeing murder elevated to entertainment sickened me, to be honest. I just wanted to scream, "This is not a game, people!" Murder is real. Murder is horrific. It is not entertainment. It is not something we should have this unhealthy fascination with. It's murder. Real people exist behind each and every murder. Real victims. Real families left behind. Murder is not a game. And it is certainly not something to be glorified.

SpiritLed Woman: You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?

Coombs: I fell apart. I did. God presented me with something I couldn't fix. It was anxiety and depression that finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldn't fix myself. I couldn't pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do in a situation like that, but nothing worked. As a last resort, I found my way to church.

SpiritLed Woman: What were some of the little daily miracles and occurrences that drew you to Jesus when you started seeking Him?

Coombs: My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical He would be. You see, I didn't believe in God. I was a skeptic—a scoffer, even. At the time, I didn't think proof of God's existence was even possible, and I certainly didn't want to be one of those "blind faith suckers." But as I sat there listening to the pastor preach, it was as if I was the only one in the room. The message spoke to where I was in that exact moment, and I thought, the sheer probability of that alone is crazy.

Coombs: The concept of God speaking to man was foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, and each time I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasn't. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof I needed to believe.

SpiritLed Woman: You prayed a prayer at the beginning of your forgiveness journey. Tell us about that and how it was answered.

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