Sacred Stories | Forgivenes

“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” – Psalm 86:5

I can still remember my first visit with him as a hospice chaplain. My patient had recently learned he was dying and had chosen hospice care.

When I first met this tall but gentle giant I inquired about his life. He recounted his experiences as an infantry soldier in Vietnam. He served two tours to Vietnam and earned two bronze stars for heroism in battle.  As he shared, his gaze shifted off into the distance;  I could tell something was troubling him. My patient turned to me and asked with tears beginning to well up in his eyes, “Do you think God can forgive me for what I did in Vietnam?” 

I felt tears begin to form in my eyes as I shared that I was also a part-time Army Reserve chaplain and a former enlisted soldier who fought in Afghanistan several years ago. I shared my own experience of healing and forgiveness. I shared the story of  king David and the passage in Psalm 86:5, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” 

After I shared, my patient looked at me and stated, “I’ve been waiting since I came home from Vietnam to hear that. It feels good to be forgiven!” Before leaving, my patient showed me his medals from Vietnam and an article in the local paper, detailing  his military service. As I departed,  I asked if I could render him a salute. He humbly accepted my offer. He walked a little lighter and a bit taller that day and during the next several weeks before this gentle giant and American hero died with honor and forgiveness.

Submitted by Josiah Hoagland

Questions for Reflection

Reflect on a time that someone offered you forgiveness. How did that act of compassion change your perspective?

How might you extend grace or greater understanding to yourself?

About Sacred Stories

As CommonSpirit Health, we make the healing presence of God known in our world by improving the health of
the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.

Sacred Stories convey ways our mission is being lived out by the gifted people in our ministry. We invite you to
use these stories for inspiration, as a meeting reflection, or to encourage discussion with your team.