Friday, October 5, 2012

The Sticky Topic of Forgiveness

One of the primary foundations of the Christian faith is forgiveness.  God forgiving us, forgiving ourselves and certainly forgiving others.  Without this tenet, we could not find the comfort and relief that is central to a successful life in Christ.

I experienced forgiveness in a small way this week.  It started on Wednesday morning, dropping the girls off for school.  We don't have buses, so we all have to get our kids to school (by 7:35 am) somehow.  Most use the carpool lane and I can assure you that is one of the most stressful parts of my day.  This year, a Dad volunteered to help direct traffic to keep the kids crossing the entry to the carpool lane safe.

This is where my well-known stubborn streak reared it's ugly head.  As my family, especially my husband, can tell you, if I do not think you are right or are doing what is right, I quickly lose respect for you.  In response to that lack of respect, I do my own thing.  I've learned to manage this fatal personality flaw, but because I didn't agree with the way this Dad did his job, I chose to pull around him rather than wait an extra 5 seconds and follow his lead.

That choice led to him chasing me down in the carpool lane and screaming at me, not once, but twice, in front of my girls.  He reported me to the assistant vice principal and scared the heck out of my kids.  I was confident in my standing in this school community so I wasn't worried about the consequences. 

Until the consequences confronted me from the backseat.  Sophia was terrified.  Natalie asked if they were going to get expelled.  Immediately, the shame of my behavior, for having put them in this position, washed over me.  The look on their faces told me that while this man's offense was greater than mine, MY offense was the one that started it all.

After a lot of prayer and a long talk with one of my spiritual mentors, I knew what I had to do (although I assure you I DID NOT WANT TO DO IT.)

I had to ask for forgiveness, from my children and this man.

It was easy to get forgiveness from the girls, they love me.  Plus they have a lot of practice at this because I do things that hurt them all the time.  But asking forgiveness from a stranger, when I could so easily ignore it or puff up the situation to make me look better, again NOT SOMETHING I WANTED TO DO.

But I did.  This morning he was back working, so with girls in tow (as they wanted to come), I apologized.  At first, he went into defense mode but after a few seconds, I don't know, something came over him.  I could use a lot of biblical analogies here, but for the sake of time, I will just say he changed, softened right before my eyes.  He apologized back.  We talked.  He introduced himself to the girls and apologized to them.  We parted on great terms.

I was near bawling when I said goodbye to the girls.  It was so clear the Lord was in that moment, I was overwhelmed by His goodness and Presence.  Natalie gave me the biggest hug and kiss and I know she is proud of me.  I am changed all because of a small opportunity to give and receive forgiveness.

So, you might be sitting there with your arms crossed saying, "Well, that is NOTHING compared to the pain I've had to endure at the hands of someone else."  And you would be right.  This was just a drop in the ocean of forgiveness.  This situation, by almost all standards, is tiny.  I am much more comfortable with how God works through suffering and how we can experience Him when bad things happen.  Forgiveness, even though I know it as part of my faith, has not been my cross to bear.  Like anyone else, I know the anger, hurt and bitterness that comes from insult, but not to the degree of others, who walk with those burdens day after day.

But I tell you this.  No single thing I have done in my life as a mother is more important than what I did today.  No amount of cancer awareness, service to the poor and ill, or counseling I do will make the level of eternal impact that humbling myself in front of my girls did.  On Wednesday, they were given fear and worry at my hand, but this morning, I saw the Lord transform that experience into hope and joy. 

My girls now know that God can take enemies and make them into friends.

The one thing I know about forgiveness, about all spiritual lessons, is that they require practice.  I am not going to ask you to forgive the parent that abused you, the spouse that betrayed you or the person that caused you irreparable harm because I had a warm and fuzzy.  That is not my place.  But I know that the elephant of bitterness on your back can be released one piece at a time.

I think that going for the gold and trying to forgive the person that has caused you the most pain, instead start with the person that has caused you the least.  Work your way up with God to the big stuff.  God can do anything, friends.  He really can.  He took my pride and turned it inside out for the benefit of me, that man and my children.  He can do the impossible in your life.  All you have to do is look at my life to see it's true.

To wrap this up, here is a song by Matthew West that I have been listening to.  It's from an album called Into The Light and is about a mother who forgave the drunk driver who killed her daughter.  It might just be his most powerful song to date.  Take a moment to mediate on what your life would be like if you could do what West counsels in this song.  Take a moment to imagine what is only possible for him that believes in the power of Christ. 

Just take a moment.  You deserve it.

1 comment:

Janice and James said...

"Praise the Lord, our Mighty Warrior!
Praise the Lord, the Glorious One!
By His hand we stand in victory!
By His Name we overcome!"
Thank you for sharing, Amy.

In God's Unfailing Love,