Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Forgiveness



Forgiveness. 

When I’ve contemplated doing it (not as often as I should), I’ve always thought of it as releasing my offender from my own wrath/punishment/revenge and instead trusting God’s (more just) dealings with him/her.  I’m pretty sure teaching in the church has reinforced this idea—that the reason we forgive is because we aren’t responsible for our offender’s consequences.  God, however, is.

But I’ve noticed something: such a release isn’t really a release.  For it creates an opportunity (which, sadly, I’m all too inclined to take) to relish the idea of my offender’s experiencing consequences for his/her behavior.  And not just any consequences, but those coming from the powerful hand of God Himself.   “Ha!” says my (dark) heart, as I “release” my offender from my own scrawny-by-comparison attempts at righting the wrong. 

But Frederica Mathews-Green offers a different definition of forgiveness.  She asserts that forgiving someone involves relinquishing my own impulse for the offender to be punished at all—by me, by circumstances or “logical consequences,” by God Himself.  She describes the prayer of forgiveness this way:  “Father, I ask for my offender to be released from Your punishment.”

This is a game-changer.  One I’m not sure I’m ready—and certainly not yet able—to negotiate just yet.

Yet I can't ignore that her definition echoes the prayer of Jesus, who asks God to forgive those who killed Him, even saying they didn’t know what they were doing.  In an audacious prayer, Jesus not only releases His murderers from well-deserved punishment to be doled out by none other than God (His father, by the way), but He goes on to release them from the culpability of realizing the heinous nature of their actions.  

When I absorb the ramifications of Jesus’ prayer, it is nearly incomprehensible.

Such a release, says Frederica Mathewes-Green, is what real forgiveness looks like.

This is a new word.  And a very hard word.

But I’m reminded of how readily I accept the idea that God’s forgiveness through Christ’s death is for everyone.  And although I’ve been hesitant to include my own sin-ridden, very-undeserving self in the “everyone” category, I've finally allowed myself to believe that I, too (even I!) could be a recipient of His forgiveness.  

And I’ve been overwhelmed at the all-encompassing, eternal, amazingly redemptive nature of that forgiveness.

But if I’m going to include myself in the “everyone” category—if I’m going to allow myself to dance in the shimmer that is His forgiveness—then I must also include my offenders in that same category.

Certainly my offender is no less offensive than I, and no less worthy of such forgiveness.

Yes, this word on forgiveness, it is hard.

And so I pray:  Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Middle School Miracle: Part One


It was a steamy Friday in mid-August, the end of the first week’s worth of the busy-ness that is the school year.  Still lamenting summer’s end, I already struggled with motivation.  Only 8 and ¾ more months to go.  Junior high baseball workouts had begun, and the parents gathered for a quick meeting while the boys wrapped up their practice.  Moms and dads chatted in the stands, catching up after summer break until the coach called the meeting to order.

As he filled us in on what the fall season would involve, we watched the players do sprints along the warning track.   After lining up at the left foul pole, one boy took off running towards the right foul pole.  Ten seconds later, the next started his trek.  Quickly, each kids’ foot-speed became apparent.   One boy kept a pace similar to the runner in front of him; another threatened to catch his teammate.   This wasn’t just cardiovascular training. It was mental toughness.  Motivation.  Face-saving. 

No one wants to be last.

This must have been what one boy was thinking when his turn came.  I’ve heard my husband, a coach, describe kids like this as being strong bodied.  It’s a build most boys long for—especially during middle school years, the season of huge and sometimes embarrassing physical disparities between pre- and post-adolescent young men.  This players’ physical frame gives him an enviable advantage at the plate, and we’ve all marveled at his ability to power the ball, rocket-like, to the outfield wall.   Don’t let his twinkling eyes and merry smile fool you:  he’s a force to be reckoned with.  And he’s only going to get stronger.  But today, that body was making it hard for him to move like he wanted to.  From the moment he started, his struggle was evident.  As I watched, my stomach ached.

Until one someone did something amazing. 

One player decided to run next to this kid for the length of the warning track.  Catching on to the idea, a few other teammates followed suit.   The ache in my gut became tightness in my throat and tears in my eyes.  And just in time, the meeting ended, and I wondered whether I was the only one who had seen that little miracle.

Not long afterwards, this child’s mother sent an email about that day . . . . .

[Part 2 soon]