Live Like Molly Day

It may be the worst fear of every parent – to be awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call telling you your child has been in a car accident.

For my friends Doug and Doris Griffin, their worst fears became reality in the early morning hours of February 22nd, 2015 when they received news that their 23 year old daughter, Molly, had died earlier in a fatal car crash caused by a drunk driver.

I cannot even imagine the searing pain and unthinkable grief that one experiences as a result of such a tragedy.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting and experiencing extreme emotional pain, I’m not a generally kind person. I remember a pastor once say that “a wounded animal is a dangerous animal.” It’s true of people too. When we’re wounded emotionally, we can be dangerously unkind, hurtful and even volatile to those around us.

Amazingly, my friends Doug and Doris, when first confronted by reporters regarding the tragic death of their daughter, did not respond as you might expect.

Doug wrote about his experience in the book Defining Moments: Coping With the Loss of a Child. In the chapter titled “Molly Day”, Doug wrote,

As word spread and people started showing up at our house, it came rather quickly to me that I had to forgive the driver. Even before knowing any details. I wish I could say that by my willpower and through some courageous act I made this decision. But that would be a lie. This time, perspective came quickly calling through the Holy Spirit: “Do you not remember driving as a young man while intoxicated yourself? Did you not come within an eyelash of dying in a car accident yourself when you were 22? Are you not commanded to forgive in order to be forgiven? And what is it that you hate more than anything? Hypocrisy.”

Later, when the first reporter showed up at their house, Doug said that the first words out of his mouth were, “I just want you to know that we have forgiven the driver.”

In this era of cancel culture and vigilante mobs who demand immediate and swift justice, what would compel a person to so quickly forgive a person they’ve never met, who’s committed an egregious crime and taken away one of the most precious things we love? This response does not seem natural, as evidenced by the reporter’s shocked expression.

Indeed, Doug and Doris’s response WASN’T natural….it was Supernatural!

Doug continued his explanation to the reporter:

“You see we are Christians and we are commanded to forgive. Did you know that Jesus forgave the very men who murdered him from the cross? If he can do that, I can forgive the driver.”

Doug also admitted that he “didn’t want to become known as the angry father who screamed for retribution or revenge.”

Later, when the time came for the driver to be sentenced, Doug and Doris were in the courtroom. California law requires that judges allow anyone who was impacted by a crime be allowed to speak at the time of sentencing. When it was Doris’s turn to speak, she pushed through the pain and the grief and expressed her forgiveness to the driver. Then Doug spoke. He writes,

…as I then rose to speak, I fought through the tears, I shared with
the drunk driver what I was sure Molly would say: “You took my life, you nearly killed my friends and you hurt every person I ever loved…And I forgive you.

(Side Note: You can read my related blog post about cancel culture and Forgiveness here.)

How does one move on after losing a loved one? As Doug asked, “how do we lean into this unceasing grief?”

Many people will do something to try to preserve the memory of their loved one. Some may set up a scholarship fund. Others may set up a charitable foundation. Doug and Doris opted for a different avenue to honor Molly’s memory and legacy.

Doug writes, “I told Doris that we needed to celebrate Molly’s life on her birthday and not focus on how she died. I said we needed to have an annual Molly Day. Doris, with a little help from her friends, took my idea and put it on steroids. She turned it into #LiveLikeMolly and came up with the perfect way to honor her: perform acts of kindness for others to establish her legacy as the kind, loving, wonderful person she was.”

Wednesday, August 26 will be the 6th annual “Molly Day”!

And so every year in early August, we get a postcard from Doug and Doris that reminds us of Molly and her birthday. This Wednesday, August 26th would have been Molly’s 29th birthday. Instead, it’s the 6th annual “Molly Day”, where those who knew Molly and those who have come to know her story are encouraged to #LiveLikeMolly by participating in random acts of kindness to those around them.

I wish I could say that I live EVERY day like Molly Day, but I don’t. I’m selfish and I often just think of my own needs instead of others. But this Wednesday, I invite you to join me in “Molly Day 2020”. Use the hashtag #LiveLikeMolly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your stories of something kind and unselfish that you were able to do for someone else.

Together, we can help honor the memory of Molly while at the same time providing small moments of cheer and joy, something I think we all could desperately use right about now!

Use the hashtag #LiveLikeMolly to share your stories of how you are able to bless others!

#LiveLikeMolly

One Word to Define Christianity

If you had to pick one word that best characterizes Christianity, what would it be?

I’m sure an overwhelming number of people would say “Love”.

Eleven times in the New Testament we’re exhorted to “Love one Another”
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This is a great answer. After all, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). He also said we should LOVE our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

In John 13:35, Jesus said, “Your LOVE for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” To Jesus, love was the pre-eminent characteristic of those who would follow Him.

Eleven other times, the New Testament encourages us to “love one another”, “serve one another in love” or some close variant of this admonition.

And of course, if you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 read, in which Paul expounds on the characteristics of love and declares it to be the greatest of the enduring qualities.

I’d like to make the case, however, for a word that might rival the word “love” as a word that epitomizes Christianity.

In today’s culture, love has been totally distorted, and to be honest, secularism has co-opted the idea of love and adopted it as its own virtue.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it one of the characteristics that sets Christianity apart from other religions and philosophies.
Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

So if you think of love as serving others, well, lots of non-Christians promote the idea of service. Or if you think of love as caring for those in need, or speaking up for those who are marginalized, there are many non-Christian groups that do that as well.

The word I’d like to promote that could rival to the word “Love” as a defining descriptor for Christianity is the word “Forgiveness”.

The other day, I was reading in 2 Timothy 3, starting in verse 1, where Paul says:

1 You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NLT)

When I read that passage, I first noticed how Paul coupled the idea of love and forgiveness together. He said in verse 3, “they will be unloving AND unforgiving.”

Secondly, I was reminded of a tweet I had read the day before. It was from a woman who is an opinion writer for the New York Times (@ebruenig). She tweeted:

“there’s just something unsustainable about an environment that demands constant atonement but actively disdains the very idea of forgiveness”

Cancel culture is an environment where people try to shut down, ruin, or “cancel” those who have been deemed to have committed offenses that are not acceptable in today’s culture.
Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

I was struck by that statement because I thought it cogently described our current “cancel” culture. If you don’t know what “cancel culture” is, it’s an attitude within our culture that seeks vindication and retribution on anybody and everybody for any transgression that is uncovered, no longer how long ago, that might go against current accepted standards of behavior or current accepted views.

Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say you tweeted a coarse joke 10 years ago that was somewhat acceptable then but is considered out of bounds now. Somebody might dig that tweet up today and weaponize it by using it to “cancel” you, publicly shaming you to the point that your reputation and often your career are irreparably damaged.

I came across this statement from Alan Jacobs, a Christian who is a professor at Baylor University:

“When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.”  (https://blog.ayjay.org/vengeance/)

What this says to me is that in our current culture love may be indistinguishable and unidentifiable to others. Of course we should love people, but our loving actions towards others may not set us apart from the culture as much as we might like to believe.

On the other hand, forgiveness, in this culture, stands out because our culture neither teaches forgiveness, nor promotes it.

Forgiveness is hard. It takes an extreme act of love to forgive others and to seek their ultimate good instead of seeking vengeance or vindictiveness.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says:

43 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46 If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)

I believe that what sets Christianity apart from other religions and philosophies is our ability to love others, even those who disagree with us and even those who persecute us. And I think a primary way we can demonstrate that kind of love in this current culture is in our ability to forgive others who offend us, while everyone around us is seeking retribution and vengeance.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think makes it hard to forgive others who don’t share our views or values?

How can we cultivate a heart that is willing to forgive?