Years ago I heard a compelling story about a WWII vet who survived a Japanese prison camp only to go back to that camp years later – to forgive his former captors. I believe I first heard about this story in a sermon by Tim Keller. It was so compelling I looked it up and ended up sharing about it in my own sermons. This week I have the privilege of preaching two sermons with the story of Louie Zamperini as thematic context.
Contrary to the title, I think the Zamperini story is one of brokenness. The irony of it all is that he survived so much only to fall apart when he returned home to safety. There, the unbroken man became undone, and almost shipwrecked his life on the rocks of alcohol, despair, and PTSD. While not many of us can relate to surviving shark attacks, plane crashes, and brutal prison torture, I think a good number of us know the experience of rock bottom, being at wits’ end. That’s where I think the Zamperini story is so human, so relateable to all of us, that it is very preachable material. We all know what it’s like to be broken.
The following week I’ll be talking from this angle of the Zamperini story. To hear that he went back to his captors, to pray for and forgive them – that was incredibly powerful. To know that he wrestled so intensely with feelings of hatred and revenge – that is something also relateable and that all people need to hear about. Tangible steps of forgiveness. How it’s done. What it means. How to work through it. While no expert myself on the subject, I’ve had expert guides who have shown me the way of liberating myself from the prison of resentment. It is a powerful teaching that I look forward to sharing on April 19th.
Until then, I’ll be marinating in the Zamperini story (alongside what I consider comparable stories in the biblical characters of Jonah and Joseph, respectively). Hope you can join us if you’re in the Katy, TX area come April 12 and 19, 2015.