A thirty-something friend of mine, Harold Cunningham, recently asked me about a problem he had. He shared this in confidence but after he told me what he did, I found it to be so radical, I asked his permission to write about it.
Harold had a disagreement with a business partner about money. A lot of money. The amount in question was in the tens of thousands of dollars. After their disagreement Harold was so angry he wondered if their partnership could last. He said, the next morning he prayed before starting his day (I got the impression this is his normal routine) but when he came to the part where he said, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” He couldn’t continue, “Because,” he said, “I knew in my heart I hadn’t forgiven my partner.”
So here’s what he did, here’s the radical part of his story. He cleared his calendar, and he drove into the mountains. There he parked and hiked up to, through, and beyond this remote abandoned railroad tunnel named Tunnel 13. He spent the whole day up there in the mountains, wandering around seeking God’s help. He said he asked specifically for God’s Helper, His Holy Spirit, to help him forgive his partner.
And when he came down from the mountain he said, “I was still as mad as ever.” He still couldn’t forgive. He wasn’t able to clear his calendar the next day, so what does this guy do? He gets up at 4 AM and walks around his neighborhood for over an hour, asking for God’s Helper again. And finally it hits him, he’s given the power to forgive his partner and friend. “And then,” he said, “I was able to pray again, about other things besides my own unforgiveness.”
Harold sent me the photo at the top of this post. In that picture you might have noticed some graffiti above the opening of Tunnel 13 that says, “DO NOT ENTER.” I found that interesting because that’s what our heart so often says to us when we try to forgive. That’s what our pride says: “DO NOT ENTER into forgiveness.” “Don’t even go there.” “They don’t deserve it.”
But Harold went there anyway. From the determined look in his eye when we spoke, he was never going to stop going there, until he could find a way to forgive. He was ready to do whatever was necessary to reconcile with his partner. And that’s exactly what Jesus said for us to do.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” -Jesus Christ, Mark 11:25
- When Jesus hung there, dying on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
- When Stephen was stoned, as he died he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60)
- Tunnel 13 has quite a history. In 1923 the DeAutremont brothers tried to rob a train there. The ill conceived plan involved dynamite, guns, and a getaway car but it didn’t end well. To learn more you can read Scott Mangold’s book, Tragedy at Southern Oregon Tunnel 13.
- More recently, there was a fire inside Tunnel 13. A rail car burned inside of it for days. My fire department helped fight that fire although I wasn’t a part of the response. Since the day of that fire Tunnel 13 has been closed.
- Harold Cunningham’s name has been changed to protect the privacy of the real “Harold Cunningham,” who requested he not be identified.
[Image via Harold Cunningham]