Set Free by Forgiveness

Set Free by Forgiveness

The Aurora gunman had wounded his body, but his stepdad was still tearing at his soul.

Marcus Weaver

I sat on my bed with my Bible, trying to tear my eyes off the T-shirt crumpled on a chair beside me. The shirt was stained—with blood. A few weeks earlier, I’d survived one of the worst mass shootings in American history, at the Century movie theaters in Aurora, Colorado.

A gunman had burst into a theater and fired dozens of rounds from a shotgun, a semiautomatic rifle and a 40-caliber handgun, killing 12 people. I was shot in the shoulder, one of 58 injured. My friend Rebecca, who’d come with me that night to watch the new Batman movie, was one of the dead.

Now my shoulder was healing. My heart was slowly healing. Even my soul seemed to be healing. At least I knew it would heal if I could take some time to pray and collect myself.

That’s why I was in my bedroom, clutching my Bible and staring at my T-shirt. I’d kept the shirt as proof I’d survived that nightmare. Somehow, God had saved me.

Yes, but saved me for what? My Bible was open to II Corinthians: “For it is God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness.’” My bedroom was dark. It was daytime, but I’d pulled the blinds and closed the door. I wanted to be alone.

The days after the shooting had been a blur of media interviews, people rushing to help. Somewhere in there I’d said something about forgiving the killer. After that, all anyone wanted to ask was, “Do you forgive him, Marcus? How can you forgive something like that?”

I’d become known as the victim who forgave the killer. Inside, I was numb. For some reason, every time I read that passage about light and darkness, I heard something else: Who do you really need to forgive, Marcus?

That was the question, wasn’t it? I knew forgiveness was the path I should take as a Christian. But James Holmes, the suspect with the dyed orange hair and crazed eyes, wasn’t the only one I needed to forgive.

I’d carried my own darkness into that theater. A lifetime’s worth. Who did I need to forgive? I closed my eyes and remembered.

My parents weren’t married when I was born. In fact, my dad was engaged to another woman. He married her and walked out of my life. By the time I was old enough to know such things, my mom had married another man, Herbert Weaver.

He’d been in the military, then went to work for the finance division of General Motors. He earned a good salary and seemed stable and upright. But Herbert was a monster. After he and Mom had two kids of their own, he treated me like an outcast.

The abuse started with yelling. Then came vicious whippings with an extension cord. Then burns with an iron. I was just seven the first time I ran away from home.

Herbert always found me and dragged me back. He chained me to my bed. Once, he filled a trash can with concrete and chained me to that. He abused Mom too. We were all terrified of him.

The only way I knew to fight back was by acting out. I smoked, drank, got in fights, shoplifted. Once, I stole Herbert’s car and crashed it. He broke off a piece of fence and beat me with it. We were like opponents in the wrestling ring, unwilling to let each other go.

Finally, after graduating from high school, I fled Virginia Beach, where we lived. I got a good job in Washington, D.C. But, like I’d do with almost every other job, I soon sabotaged myself. Always the damage inside me won out and I’d do something stupid, walk away or get in trouble.

For years I wandered from place to place, job to job, running away from everything but myself.

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