There were thirty minutes left before we had to catch our cab to the airport for a flight back home from New York. Meredith and I decided to walk over to the Bouchon Bakery for cappuccinos and some of their mouth-watering macaroons. As we headed up 45th street from Vanderbilt Ave., we were awed by the sea of blue that filled the closed streets in every direction. The seemingly endless line of men and women in uniform made us stop in admiration and wonder. We quickly found out that New York’s finest had massed as far as the eye could see to pay tribute to one of their own.
In July of 1986, Officer Steven McDonald had stopped three teens to question them about bicycle thefts in their neighborhood, when one of the youths pulled out a gun and shot the officer at point blank range. Officer McDonald was twenty-nine years old at the time, and he and his wife, Patti Ann, were expecting their first child. But the unthinkable had occurred and now, paralyzed from the neck down, he and his family would not let the outcome of that moment in time defined their future. Several months later their son, Conor, was born and at the baby’s Baptism, Officer McDonald, through his wife, told the world that he forgave his attacker, and hoped the teen would find “peace and purpose in his life.”
Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32). The Bible is filled with calls to forgiveness. But forgiveness is a single word, which at times can command a huge and selfless response on our part. Officer McDonald’s reply was that the only thing worse than being shot in the spine would be to “nurture revenge in his heart.”
When we let the seed of bitterness take root in our heart, we can lose our faith and we can lose ourselves. Officer McDonald never let himself be shaped by his loss, for him, forgiveness was the only path to peace. With the support of his wife, son, members of the NYPD, and his beloved New York Rangers hockey team, Officer McDonald took his platform of forgiveness to a multitude of venues, ranging from local high school student assemblies to visits with three Popes. His scars told the story of what he had endured, but he did not allow them to chart the course of his life going forward. Matthew 6:33 tells us to, seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give us everything we need. Officer McDonald’s life was a stirring example of that for us. In his own words, “There’s nothing easy about being paralyzed. It’s frustrating – difficult – ugly – at times. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.” And for thirty-one years, Officer McDonald lived a life of faith and forgiveness. Through his tragedy he chose to be an inspiration to all of us.
Thank you Officer Steven McDonald for living your life with faith in the words of Jesus, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
Lord fill us with the faith, strength and courage to meet the challenges in life with complete trust and reliance on You.