Tag Archives: forgiveness

The One-Two Punch of Forgiveness

I’ve decided that a relationship is like a bank account. You must make deposits to be able to draw anything out. And trust is one of the crucial factors that hold a relationship in tact. When a friend or family member does something which is totally untrustworthy, they bankrupt the account. And “sorry” isn’t enough to fill it back up.

A wise friend of mine counsels married couples. Usually he finds that they are struggling because of an affair or gambling or some behavior which has broken trust entirely. The person who made the offense will say they are sorry to their spouse and expect that their relationship should be back where it was before. This offender does not understand the relationship bank account system! When they broke trust, they bankrupted their account. They are basically starting over as a couple, having to build the trust back up in the account. And that always takes time.

I am amazed when I hear others who know about these type of situations saying things like, “Well, if she had really forgiven him, she wouldn’t be treating him that way.” Or “If you really forgave her, you wouldn’t mind if she came to the family event. Let’s just all get along.” But what they won’t say is the rest of the sentence, “… even if she hasn’t ever acknowledged she stole $100,000 from you or that she did anything wrong.”

People want forgiveness without reparation, especially if they were not the ones who were offended. But forgiveness, although merciful, also requires reparation. For example, if your son breaks the neighbor’s window, marching him over to the neighbor’s house to ask forgiveness is just step one. Step two is the neighbor saying, “You are forgiven.” Step three is having your son mow the lawn for the summer to pay off the cost of replacing that window.

Somehow, in today’s world, we let go of step three. We just expect others to forgive and call on God’s mercy as the reason why. Yes, God is all merciful, but He is all just, too! The justice part is overlooked when we don’t make reparation. Scripture tells us that we are called to forgive our neighbor over and over and over. However, we are also told to pay back any debts owed and right any wrongs. Mercy and justice go hand in hand. They are the one-two punch of forgiveness. Without these two together, I think you end up at that lukewarm notion called tolerance.

 

 

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Busted with Juicy Fruit Gum

This morning I was reminded of a time when I was 5-years-old and my brother was 4-years-old, and we went grocery shopping with our mom. Since our family was rather large, grocery shopping was always a two-cart trip, and check out took quite awhile or at least it felt that way to us as kids. As we were standing there, my brother pointed out a giant bin full of Juicy Fruit gum. As kids, we had no idea there was a fake bottom to the display, so it appeared to be full of double packs of gum from the floor up to our noses. He was brilliant, as I mentioned in an earlier post, so I usually believed what he said to be true. He said to me something like, “Gee, that’s a lot of gum. It will probably go bad before they even have a chance to sell it. We should help them and take a pack.”

I would like to say that I replied something like, “Well, that would be stealing, and it is wrong.” But I’m as weak as the next person, so I said, “Okay.” I promptly stole a pack of gum, unbeknownst to my mom. His argument had sounded reasonable to me in my Kindergarten thought process.

When we arrived home, the usual routine was that every child helped unload the station wagon full of groceries. As my mom headed inside to gather the rest of my siblings, my brilliant brother and I headed around back of the house to the backyard. We quickly unwrapped a piece of gum for each of us and started chewing. “If Mom catches us, we’ll be dead,” I think I said. So, we decided to open all the gum and chew it all at once. Now, remember, this is a double pack of Juicy Fruit. Our little mouths could barely hold one half of the gum. And here comes Mom around the corner, “What are you two doing?” With full mouths and silver wrappers blowing in the wind around our ankles, we try to answer. “Did you steal gum from the store?” she asked. Oh boy. This is going to be painful.

Once the groceries were inside, Mom plopped us back in the station wagon and headed to the grocery store. I know I was crying, but I cannot remember what my partner in crime was doing. She marched us in the store and asked for the Store Manager. We had to admit we stole the gum and apologize for what we had done. The Store Manager felt bad for us, and said he accepted our apology and appreciated our honesty. My mom paid for the gum, and we had to earn that money to pay her back by working  around the house. Lesson learned!

Fast forward 30 years. My family is visiting a Shrine with a souvenir shop. My son asks if I will buy him a small trinket. I decline. He pockets the item, only to be discovered when we arrive home 2 hours later. Do you know what I did? That’s right. We headed back to the Shrine the first thing the next morning because it would be closed by the time we could have arrived on that same day. I marched him into the Shrine and asked for the Store Manager. He had to admit he had stolen the trinket and apologize for what he had done. I paid for the trinket and he had to earn that money by working around the house.

But wait, there’s a problem we encountered. The Store Manager actually said that it was okay that my son stole the trinket, and that my son could keep the trinket for free. What? Hello? I couldn’t believe it. Here was an adult telling my child that stealing was okay? At a religious shrine, no less? If he had said that he forgave my son, but that my son needed to pay for the trinket, that would have made sense. Or if he had accepted my son’s apology and appreciated his being honest, that would have made sense. But to say that my son was innocent was insane.

I spent the drive home discussing why the Ten Commandments are crystal clear about stealing, and how even if other people, including adults, would like to say it is otherwise, stealing is wrong. Through this experience, I saw even more clearly why our world today has problems. I sure hope my son learned the lesson I learned as a child, not the “tolerant” one that the Store Manager at the Shrine hoped to teach.

I Found the Hidden Treasure

Remodeling is hard work! My son and I just finished ripping out most of our kitchen. We also pulled up carpeting in our front room. In my earlier post, “What Lies Hidden Beneath?” I was sharing that I was a bit afraid of what I might find underneath the carpeting. I found myself comparing the carpet removal process to our spiritual lives.

To recap:
Pristine carpeting yet full of dust = our souls  partially clean, partially murky
Carpet pad (with crumbling sections) = our hardness of heart/unforgiveness
Hardwood floor = beauty of ourselves (body and soul) made in God’s image
Staples (brittle, stuck deep) = sin that needs to be removed

So, we started working on the staple removal process. And let me tell you, it is S-L-O-W going! You cannot stand to do very much at a time because it overwhelms you. For every few staples we can easily remove, the next few break in half, right at the wood floor. Our knees and elbows hurt and are bruised (and we are even using knee pads!)

This was the most mentally demanding work of all because it was no fun and felt like progress was at a snail’s pace. This is much like getting rid of those long festering sins in our lives. When we finally decide to work on them, we think it will be easy. It is not. It can definitely be discouraging at first. Perseverance becomes a real word that means something more than you ever realized before in your life!

As you can imagine, my son and I were high-fiving each other when we pulled the last staple and swept up the final, horrible remains of the crumbling, chalk-like carpet pad. We were so proud of persevering and finishing the job. That’s when our friend arrived and pointed out to us that when they sand and refinish these hardwood floors, all those little holes from the staples will show right back up. We will have to use a special tool to tap the tiny staples that we could not extract back down into the wood. I suppose these small, unextractable “sins” are like what St. Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 12 when he says, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

But that’s not all! After tapping these down, we have to carefully find each single hole created by the staples or nails along the edges and fill them with a special filler. Aha! Now this is exciting and makes tremendous sense. I feel like I found the hidden treasure! It just came to me that once we are cleansed of sin, we must always remember to ask the Holy Spirit to fill those places we have emptied. I think St. Paul says it best: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” I think we’ll keep that as our prayer in mind as we are on our knees slowing filling each little hole…

What Lies Hidden Beneath?

I’m in the midst of a remodeling project. Because I am thrifty, my family is doing as much of the work as we can. This means tearing things apart which my sons find quite wonderful. We have pretty much redone this entire house except for the kitchen and two bathrooms. This week, we are dismantling the kitchen and pulling up carpeting. It was our hope and prayer that the hardwood floors would still be in good shape. The question we all were wondering as we began the ripping out process is “What lies hidden beneath?”

Okay, you may find this odd, but I am constantly finding that God speaks to me even through carpet that is 40+ years old! Think of a green from the 1960s…not avacado but a more of a classic light green. This carpet looks pristine because it is wool and apparently no one was allowed to “play” in this area. However, as we rip into the carpet, layers of dust come at us as we choke . This is like our souls. We may look fresh and clean and well-kept on the outside, but beneath this “surface” is some pretty awful stuff.

Next, we get to the carpet pad. It is thick and red. “Wow, this was nice stuff when they bought it,” I say to my son. However, some portions of this thick, red padding have become hard as rock! Crumbling, chunks of substance like chalk. “Huh,” I think to myself, “this is like parts of our hearts where we sealed off ourselves because of unforgiveness. There’s nothing left to work with here. It’s just crumbling away into dust.”

Finally, we get to the floor. It’s hardwood and it is beautiful. Oops. I forgot. There are rows and rows and rows of large carpeting staples that need removing. I try my usual method (pliers), only to find that these staples have been in here so long, they are brittle and just break, leaving me to wrestle the tiny nubs out of the hard, hard wood. These are like our sins that have gone deep into the depths of us. They have become us, and we must work hard to ply them out of the beauty that God made us.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of this remodeling job has in store for me. I must admit though I’m a bit afraid of what lies hidden beneath.

Accepting the Weather: Sunshine and Storms

I think I have started seeing myself in the weather.  I have been really griping about all the winter weather and how much I am looking forward to spring. Then, lo and behold, yesterday, it was sunny and a balmy 83 degrees. I just couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even happy about it. I told my children that I was having a really hard time getting into this nice weather because I just felt like it wasn’t going to be around long. It felt too good to be true. I even checked the weather forecast which said beautiful weather all week long. I started opening every window in our house to avoid turning on the air conditioning, and it was still too warm to be comfortable.

Let me translate how I see myself in the weather for you:

When God gave me something wonderful like a sunny day, I chose not to even believe it. (Lord, help my unbelief.) Instead of gratitude, I found myself worrying about how long this weather would last, which is a very miserly way to look at a gift. (Lord, teach me to be thankful for all you have given me.) I even presumed to think that your gift is too good to be true which is very humbling for me to admit. (Lord, teach me to trust in you.) I doubted your goodness so much, that I turned to human ways of looking at things to verify your goodness. (Lord, change my doubt into deep, abiding faith.) I even found a way to see the difficulties in your gift. (Lord, give me a clean heart.)

As I began to review my day last evening, I realized just how far off base I was with the way I was responding to this gift of beautiful weather. I decided that I would embrace any amount of sunshine God would provide no matter how long. Then, this morning, I woke up to 39 degrees and overcast.  Boy, does God have a good sense of humor. (Lord, please be patient with me, I am still growing!)