On Sunday night, I was eye to eye with a "brother" of mine, pleading with him to let go of all his hurts, grudges, and anger toward people in his past, the "system," and basically the world. I stood there feeling quite helpless. He knows all the right answers and basically understands that he needs to change the way he thinks to align up with God's love and truth, (and to first receive and believe it is for himself), but he felt it was too hard and overwhelming. After thirty minutes of using all my pastoral strength, seminary taught listening skills, and scripture quotes, I told him I didn't know what else to say. We just needed to pray. A few others and I prayed for him declaring that God's love and power was enough. I wish I could report there was some miraculous change in him, but as we prayed I felt a block. It was as if he wouldn't budge. He'd rather choose to be angry and hardhearted. He was actually making the choice to see his life as a sh*%-hole (his words). It was almost as if we were praying for a statue. I'm glad God is bigger than what I can see. I keep praying, and believing that God will chip away at his heart and he will respond so that he can see how God sees him and his life. But honestly, I felt mad, not at him, but mad at sin, mad at Satan.
Then today, while playing with my kids at a park the story continued. My oldest daughter was sitting on a picnic blanket eating her sandwich while I spoon fed our nine month old, and my three year old was on a swing. In an instant, an unleashed dog ran up and snatched my daughter's juicy tuna sandwich. I turned my head to see it snarfing it down while my daughter was looking on in horror and shock. All I could say was, "It's eating your sandwich!" The owner then grabbed her dog and said, "Yep," while she dragged her pooch away. She didn't apologize, discipline her picnic intruder, or acknowledge that only crumbs were left from our once existing tuna sandwich with the edges cut off. It was so weird. So there I was left trying to console my daughter, who already had dog fears since she was little, while assuring her she could just eat her sister's sandwich. (Thankfully our three year old doesn't like tuna that much). Other protective park moms were jumping to rally and console us. "How could she not say anything? How rude! Report her! Are you OK? (etc)." In reflecting back, I wasn't scared that the dog was going to hurt my daughter, or mad at the dog, (who could blame him for helping himself the great taste of tuna), but I was just put off! This interrupted and inconvenienced my life! We were now down one sandwich, and the owner had, in all definitions of the term, trespassed (literally), upon me and my family.
Then it hit me.
I had a choice, right in that moment. I know this may seem small, but it was a reality of a bigger issue in my heart. I could continue to build the list in my head against this person and store up a bunch of anger toward this nameless person who now was "in debt" to me, or I could take her off the hook. I could forgive. There I was, in the same position as my friend from the other night. I could enslave my heart as victim of trespass, or could choose to use my "the mind of Jesus." I had to give this person grace, and at least- the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that dog owner didn't see what happened. Maybe she was going through her own personal issues and this trespass was not about me at all. Maybe she felt so much shame she couldn't even open her mouth to apologize. Whatever the reason, (and even if she meant to trespass and didn't care), it was worth it for me to forgive and let it go. For me and my kids. But let me say I had to tell myself that this was the better choice (with thanks and help from the Holy Spirit). So as we drove home from the park, the kids and I talked about how Jesus teaches us to forgive and not focus on how we feel so upset (or what could have happened), as if we need to demand retaliation. What good would that do, anyway? Because we follow a savior, a rabbi, a God who was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He showed us the way to love, the way to let go. It's the way to be free. It's not the easy way, but I know it is THE good way, the right way. And when I get past all the excuses of how "hard it is," it really feels good, too, to forgive. I know this was just a "tuna sandwich," and compared to all the other trespasses/hurts in the world it might not measure up, but it was real for me. This was a timely circumstance for me this week. And I hope this becomes THE way of our kids, also! I hope it becomes THE way for you, too. However you have been trespassed upon, I know it isn't easy to forgive the number of heinous, sinful atrocities committed against people, but it is for our good (and God's kingdom), that we learn to forgive.
When I was talking with my friend the other night I shared this with him, and God reminded me of it today.
I know God will never have to apologize to us, because he never sins or intends sin upon us. But I do think when face to face with us and all our hurts/wounds/and anger he would say, "I'm sorry that happened to you. I'm sorry you were treated that way. I'm sorry the people I created sinned against you. I'm sorry you were __________, that was never my intention."
Jesus gave his life to love and forgive you, so you could forgive others.