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Saturday, 18 July 2020

To Forgive is Good For Your Health.

My PhD-holder friend of mine, Andrew Milnthorpe, and I went for a walk into the beautiful South Hill Park, located just outside our rear garden gate. As we walked along, I said,

If throughout the whole of my life I had never seen a Bible, let alone ever reading one, nor had I ever heard the Gospel, but the only contact I ever had in that direction would be by means a typical English church...

"You still wouldn't know God," Andrew replied, cutting in without letting me finish.

I'll end up as an atheist, I concluded, finishing the sentence. But before you click off after reading such a negative statement, please read on, for once the bottom is reached, the only way to go is up.

It all reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle which was lent to me by a former customer. She had a stack of different puzzles all stashed away neatly in her cupboard, and she lent me several of them to help me pass the time of convalescence following a major cardiac procedure.

Among all the pieces of one particular jigsaw, there was one piece which kept turning up as I stirred through the rest in the construction of the picture. Finally, the 1,000-piece puzzle was complete, with every piece fitting together perfectly to make the overall image - except for that one piece, left remaining all by itself in the box.

However, this puzzle was one of the same series the owner had collected. That means that each of the original pictures was cut by the same factory machine, making all the pieces of each puzzle identical to each other. As such, the foreign piece would have fitted perfectly in place - except that the overall picture would have been spoiled, an odd colour right in the middle, defined by the foreign piece. 

When she gave me another puzzle, I have used all the pieces in the box, except that a hole in the middle of the picture would have spoiled the whole image. Fortunately, I had the foresight to leave the foreign piece in a safe place, and after retrieving it - voila! A complete picture with no colour oddity. 

The opening statement, negative as it might look, isn't from a mere philosophical preponderance or anything like that. Rather, this is borne out from personal experience, with the most shattering event occurring during February of 2005. But I'll come back to that shortly. 

Like any normal human, by joining a church (or a club or any other social meet) my instincts would be drawn to people of my own age range. The only snag was that it does look as if my unskilled or semi-skilled vocation, together with a failure record at school, along with the "ugly" fact that I had never seen the inside of a university, topped with a voice tone which seemed to convey a slow-thinker, like that foreign jigsaw piece, I was never able to blend in as well as I should - even if on a spiritual level I fitted into the church perfectly. 

Like in 1978 when a group of unmarried young people, all within my age range, decided to hire a boat for a week at the Norfolk Broads, a part of Eastern England which is very flat and crossed with canals. When I asked whether I could join them along with paying my share, I was told a resounding NO. Crushed in spirit, I made my way to a travel agent and booked a month's return flight to New York instead (I already had the multiple-entry US visa stamped in my passport from the previous year.) But that was not the point.

Rather, the point is the feeling of rejection. Rejected not because I didn't fit into the church. I fitted in well. No, the rejection came for having the wrong colours. For me, this was a psychological disaster which changed my perception of English churches forever. Yet I remained. Especially after returning from America, I was able to forgive them.

What was it about me which compelled them to reject me? And so I kept asking myself. Surely it couldn't have been just my background. Indeed, they were all graduates, and I wasn't one. It must be something more, but at the time I couldn't put my finger on it.

Then there was 1994. That was the year I offered myself to be a volunteer at a Christian Conference Centre, owned by the organisation Israel Trust of Anglican Churches, which also serves as a hotel. I wanted to spend a year volunteering there (I wasn't allowed to use the word work - to mean earning a taxable income - to Israel Immigration.) Whilst there, there was the weekly meeting of all "vollies" with the full-time staff members which makes up the management team.

By then, I have already felt the pangs of rejection by other vollies, and even by a couple of staff members. But at that morning meeting, I made a suggestion that we men should do the heavier maintenance work whilst the women were better with the domestics. Actually, the Director knew that I was right, and began to put my idea into practice, at least partially, so not to be too obvious.

The hatred, especially from the females, became almost unbearable. At the same time, there was with us, one tall and exceptionally good-looking graduate who was adored by the same women as well as by the other men. And going by their daily chatter within earshot, graduation was high on their agenda. A person's worth, especially a male, was evaluated by his level of education. And they made that quite clear. After just two months out of the twelve, I was dismissed from Stella Carmel C.C.C. by management after a stream of protests and complaints from the other vollies, but instead of being escorted directly to the airport as with all offenders, I was free to board a bus at Haifa for Jerusalem where I spent a whole month holed up in a secular backpacker's hostel, where I was much happier!

It was just two days before boarding the flight back to England from Tel Aviv Airport when I was standing on the summit of the Mount of Olives, looking over the beautiful and historic city of Jerusalem, when quite clearly, I felt God speaking to me. There and then he opened a door for another trip to the USA to take place in 1995, take-off from London Heathrow to New York exactly a year to the day later. And so it happened. And the spiritual therapy behind the Transatlantic trip? To forgive all those back in Israel for what they had done to me.

Alex, 18 weeks pregnant, at Stella Carmel, taken Oct 2000.

But the biggest and the most challenging bid to forgive was to a social worker I'll just name Wendy, whose career was already under threat by her supervisor. By then, up to February 2005, we were a family of four - two daughters, my wife and me. It was true that I found communicating with my daughters difficult at times, but that didn't excuse Wendy for being a sadistic bully in our own home, especially to Alex. One lunchtime, after further criticising my wife, I ordered her out of the house with a steely tone of voice. Two days later, under Wendy's orders and endorsed by the County Court, at three in the morning, a couple of police officers entered our house, rushed upstairs and took away our sleeping daughters, leaving my wife screaming hysterically. Our daughters were to be eventually adopted, with their surname changed to that of the new parents and their address kept secret from us. At least news of Wendy's dismissal from her post gave a very small crumb of comfort.

But it took months and months for my rage against her to cool. Until then, to forgive such a self-confessed atheist was beyond my capability. And Alex's too. I'm convinced that this deep resentment against this highly educated graduate and professional was directly connected to Alex's poor state of health, both with a neurotic disorder which has confined her to a wheelchair and with cancer, together with my own need for heart surgery.

It's known in the medical world that non-invasive diseases such as Arthritis, Colitis, Ulcers, Arteriosclerosis, Coronary Thrombosis, Ceberal Apoplexy, Psyconeurosis, Obesity and Diabetes, Back Pain, Muscle Pain, Headache, Heart Attack, Cancer, Toxic Goiter, and many more, are caused by negative emotions including fear, anger and unforgiveness.*

As one sermon delivered during Band of Brothers Christian men's meeting held one Saturday morning at the Kerith Centre, you forgive someone for your sake, and not for the offender's sake. One prime example is Wendy. She left us in a very bad state with us fuming in rage. This lasted for months. My lust for vengeance just could not be quelled, harbouring murderous visions in my head, and that despite that after her dismissal, she disappeared, never to be seen again. Yet my anger refuses to go away, and that I think this was because she got away very lightly and knowing that her vast education will land her another office job straight away. And so my rage continued until I thought about forgiveness and asked God how I can go about it.

That's where the Band of Brothers preach comes in. It was there when I felt God speaking to me, clearing up a confusion that to forgive someone, the offender must be present to receive the forgiveness. How untrue that is! The offender may not want forgiveness nor care about it. Yet I must forgive her, even in her absence, for my health's sake. And so I have, no longer allowing her nastiness to get the better of me.

But this still leaves me one issue going back long before days of Wendy. Why such rejection at Stella Carmel C.C.C. and further back in time at the old Baptist church? It was during our Parental Assessment course which followed the loss of our daughters which brought what I believe was the answer. According to a psychologist we both have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. Nowadays the term Asperger's is no longer used in the medical field, but Autism Spectrum, with us being on the thin end which does not affect our IQ.

But it does cause difficulty in communication and often obsessive interest in one or two particular topics. And it can also cause a sufferer difficulty in finding friends. Or at least that what they say. Therefore it could be said that all the rejection felt among Christians was down to having Asperger's. It looks as if the round peg fits the round hole until I came across one problem.

That is Andrew Milnthorpe, my intelligent friend who holds a PhD and who also has Asperger's. Yet, when he announced his graduation as a doctor on Facebook, many congratulated him. These including congratulations from the very same people who sidestepped me, refusing me to go with them on the boat trip and also refusing to pair with me on the Facebook friendship panel. With less than 140 friends I have, Andrew currently has 611. In short, if all those who think lowly of me and even patronise at the first opportunity due to having Asperger's, then why is Andrew, who also has Asperger's, so far more popular among them? Could it be - heaven forbid - could it be that Andrew is far higher educated? Come on! Did Jesus and his apostles really endorse this form of favouritism?

Or another answer could be highlighted by a BBC documentary we both watched earlier in the week, Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Lip. Suddenly everything seems to fall into place! Andrew is better at controlling his emotions than I am. It's all about being British.

And that is so tragic! Should favouritism be allowed to exist and to flourish as a means of promoting Britishness in a church environment? No wonder. Had it not been for the grace of God, or that I haven't gotten a Bible immediately after conversion and began to read it, had it not been the presence of the Holy Spirit within, who knows, I might have walked away from such an environment as an atheist.

But to finish off, I have a genuine love for all those at my home church, Ascot Life. And how I long for this lockdown to end so we can all meet together again. It's something to look forward to.

*S. I. McMillen MD, None Of These Diseases, 1980, Lakeland Publishers (UK) 


  1. Dear Frank,
    You are right -- harboring unforgiveness hurts us far more than the one we need to forgive. It can destroy our spirit, leaving us bitter, and our body, increasing our risk for all the stress-related diseases you mentioned.
    Praise the Lord that He forgave us all our sins and paid the price for them with His own shed blood! Praise the Lord that He loves each of His children infinitely, regardless of education, status, attractiveness in the world's eyes, or any physical or mental condition!
    Thanks for the excellent post. God bless you and Alex,

  2. Hi Frank, for Matthew ch. 6 vs.14 and 15 say:- For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. When you say about your two daughters I really hope and pray that they will one day search for their birth parents, you and Alex and you will be reunited with then. God does not live in a house made with hands and not everyone who goes to a church building has the 'love' that is written in the Bible. It is good that the group you meet up with sound like they could have that kind of love, and I hope you get together with them again soon. God bless you and Alex Frank.