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For most of us, Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the love between a parent and their children. But for Deborah Cotton, Mother’s Day will always be the story of a different kind of love. Deborah is a journalist and longtime advocate for nonviolence and social action who sacrificed years of her career to help disadvantaged neighborhoods in her beloved New Orleans. But on Mother’s Day in 2013, that all changed when she was one of twenty people injured in a mass shooting during a parade in the 7th Ward. When two gang members opened fire into the crowd of innocent bystanders, Deborah was hit in the abdomen, and the bullet tore through several vital organs.
30 surgeries later, she survived. But she would forever carry the scars, a reminder of the high cost of her service to her community. She now also faced a choice about what Mother’s Day would mean to her moving forward. Would it mean reliving the horrific memory of that day and the pain that came with it? Or would she choose to turn her tragedy into something positive through forgiveness and love? Amazingly, Deborah chose love. She reached out to the man who shot her and visited him in prison. She wanted to hear his story and understand why he would do something so violent. Since her first visit, Deborah has helped her shooter turn his life around, focusing specifically on his spiritual transformation in relationship to our Triune God. When I heard about this incredible story, I couldn’t help but think of the life-changing love of our own amazing Savior. Like Deborah, he too carries the scars of love: eternal reminders of the high cost of his work to redeem humankind. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that —“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).
And the amazing thing? Jesus did this willingly. He knew before his death the pain he was about to enter into. But instead of turning away, the sinless Son of God voluntarily assumed the entire cost to judge and bring to an end all of humanity’s sin, to reconcile us to God and deliver us from evil and eternal death. He even prayed for his Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying him! His love truly knows no bounds! And it’s so heartening to see signs of his reconciling and transforming love spread through the world today by people like Deborah, who chose love over condemnation, forgiveness rather than retribution. And this Mother’s Day, we can all be inspired by her example as she depended upon and followed Jesus Christ, to go out and do likewise.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.