I'm having coffee with the queen this morning. This is courtesy of my sons and their recent trip to Great Britain. It's interesting to have HRM staring back at me as I write. I tell myself she is beaming her approval.
I have encountered many stop and think moments regarding forgiveness lately. I noticed the pattern, but largely ignored it as there was no recent hurt I needed to release; no injury I needed to pardon.
Earlier this week, I heard a great interview on Sirisus XM's The Message with the group Tenth Avenue North about their new song, Losing. The lyrics echo the words of Jesus from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," against the plea for grace to forgive, even when we feel like it means we're losing. I almost switched channels when I heard the interview begin. While there is some Christian music I love, I often find the banter irritating, simplistic and preachy. These guys were articulate and interesting.
And it's true, when we truly surrender the hurt of an injury, our egos may tally it as a loss. It's also true, that if we accept grace as it was offered by Christ, it is a very tall order to shape our lives into channels of that same grace in response.
I want to share a financial analogy with you, as money comes closest to striking the same chord with all of us.
Imagine that you make $100,000.00. Now imagine that you also owe a debt of $100,000,000.00. You know you will work all your life and never be out of debt. Can you imagine how that weight would feel day in and day out? How would it feel to know you can not possibly make enough or do enough to repay that debt and continue to meet the obligations of food, shelter and necessities? You might pray daily for a lottery win or a miracle.
Then, the miracle happens. The one holding your debt says, "Your debt has been forgiven. We're taking it off our books. Your obligation has been met." No need for bankruptcy. No public disclosure. You just quietly and quickly are liberated from your obligation. Forever.
Can you imagine the incredible sense of relief you would feel? You suddenly would have more than enough. Your salary would seem huge, and your life, abundant.
So, if you pray the Lord's prayer and say, "forgive us our debts..." think of that analogy. And keep thinking when you get to, "...as we forgive our debtors."
Imagine, if we truly released every little bit of hurt or harm we thought another had caused us? Imagine if we truly forgave with the measure we've been forgiven.
Actually, I had myself convinced I was pretty good at this. I generally just don't hang on to much muck. Or so I told myself.
Then last week, I had a string of sleepless nights. I kept waking with a parade of little hurts lining up to march through my sleep-deprived thinking. In the parade were assumptions about people's motivation; regrets over opportunities I thought I'd long since forgotten; exclusion and hurt; words that stung and that I thought I'd released to God's good hands came tumbling back to me with incredible clarity. All that "stuff" was still bumping around in my heart taking up room I would have sworn was long since vacated to make space for joy and grace.
The following night, my sleepless thoughts were much darker and bigger. This time, it was my words and actions leading the parade. The things I've done full of justification and righteous indignation...or worse, complete thoughtlessness. I got out of bed so I could catch my breath, so heavy were the self-analyzing thoughts I churned up. I've been a bitch. I've been so mean. I've held on to so much crap! And there it all was tumbling across my consciousness at 3 a.m.
Finally, I embraced the realization that my thoughts didn't keep taking me back to forgiveness because I needed to give it. I need to ask for it. I saw clearly some of the duplicity in my life. And, rather than a sense of guilt or anxiety, I felt absolutely weightless as I laid all this muddle out there with God. I felt like every knot was moved from my shoulders and my heart was wide open and overflowing with luscious grace. I felt forgiven. Immediately. Purely. Completely. And I drifted off to sleep.
I hadn't really ever thought about forgiveness in a physical sense before. But I truly, felt new.
Now, here's the challenge. If we can imagine that...our hearts opened...our debts forgiven..., or better yet, if we've experienced it, then we owe that peace to one another. We must love each other just. like. that. With complete forgiveness and unconditional love.
Not forgiveness from that place that says, "Whatever. It's okay." Or that other place where we, as Garth Brooks once sang, bury the hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out. Forgiveness given by God and modeled by Jesus is not the nasty kind that leaves a litany of transgressions dangling above the head of an other, waiting to come crashing down when we're mad again. We have to learn to deep clean the slates and let loose the hold we have on hurts.
When we do, we've created just the right space for good things to take root. For goodness to grow in us and through us.
Next, maybe we'll tackle how to say "I'm sorry."