Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Gentle Surrender to Forgiveness

As I watch Caleb grow up, I see my own childhood parallel with his experience. I try to balance perspective against assumption. Our experiences are not necessarily the same, and the way we discover meaning from life may be unique. Even so, he reminds me of specific moments of my childhood that shaped me.

I must have been about his age the day I forgot my house key. Typically the small brass key was tucked away in the zippered pouch of my Roos shoes, but not that day. My routine was simple, ride the bus home, unlock the door and go inside, and cause no damage to the house or harm to myself. Most likely my mother left me a to do list, something like laundry or vacuuming. I suppose this was to keep me occupied as much as it was to help her. Mom and dad both worked, and I had about 2 hours alone before she arrived. Sometimes I even helped begin dinner.

This day was not a usual day. I had no key, and so I went into the backyard and sulked for a while. I had put myself into quite a fix. I was stuck outside, I couldn't get my list done, and overall I just felt stupid. Soon though, I realized the day was warm and bright and I had a dog to keep me company. And so the time passed quickly and my mother came home to open up the house.

I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime after that it was discovered that the storm door had been destroyed. It had a screened top, and a white aluminum bottom. The handles and hinges were black, along with the trim. The door matched our black shutters and roof. The entire bottom panel of the door appeared that it had been repeatedly pummeled or kicked. 

The worst thing about being an only child is that you get absolutely no wiggle room. There simply is no-one else to blame. If something gets broken... guess who did it? To be fair, it typically was me. Over time I learned how to face consequences, learn from them, and move past them... because, there was no getting out of it anyway.

But this was different. I did not destroy the door.
My parents were convinced I did.
This was a problem.

I have never been the type to take the easy way out. I knew that I could simply say that I did it, accept the punishment and move on. That would have been far easier than repeatedly denying the charge and facing the inquisition. My mother was very concerned that I posses character and integrity, and she was convinced that I was lying. After all... who else would have done it? Just me, remember?

And so, there was questioning... lots of questioning. She made me recount my every movement from the time my feet stepped off that bus until her arrival two hour later. She tried every technique she could think of to get me to admit I had destroyed the door: appeals to my good nature, guilt, threats of punishment, and Bible lessons. Hours passed. My dad come home, and the whole thing repeated.

I did not cave. They were convinced that was lying. Over the years the subject still comes up, and I continue to proclaim my innocence. Their storm door is glass right now... if it was aluminum, I think I'd walk to their house right now and kick it in, just so we could all be in agreement. 

I did not kick that door.

Even so, I have had guilt about it for 26 years. I wonder... what if I really did it and just don't remember it? What if I did it and I wasn't aware of doing it? Even though I find those possibilities ridiculous, there is still doubt in the corner of my mind. What if? 

With 3 kids in our house, it is important that we have a great deal of trust. When something gets broken, I now launch my own inquisition... employing all the same manipulations. When they deny an action, I press intensely, and remembering my own experience... I then back off.

As adults we carry a lot of stuff with us that simply gets in our way. We worry about the past, we worry about other people's behavior, we worry about how much we do and how little everyone else seems to do, we even fret about doing the things we chose to do.

We rob ourselves of the joy in life. We miss out on the beauty that is everywhere. We fail to see that when we give we are blessed. We fail to see that when we extend grace we receive it. We allow the actions or inactions of others to pull shades of darkness over our own life. We may not have kicked in that storm door... but we are acting like we did.

This life we have is an incredible blessing. The work that we do for each other, for those we love, and even those we don't know... is a testament of the incredible gift given to us by God. When we grumble and moan, we deny the power of God. It comes down to focus. It comes down to what we want out of life.

How we walk reflects our relationship with God. Are we ready to accept his grace and forgiveness, or are we simply willing to condemn? I have often found myself in this weighty place and only recently have I realized that it is not my job to condemn. It is my job to reflect the image of God.

It is difficult to accept forgiveness, but being a follower of Christ means that we believe that He loves us, and we accept His forgiveness. If we do so, then our lives become changed. Once we find the power of His love and forgiveness, the way we view those around us shifts. How can we not extend to others what we have been freely given?

Understanding the incredible relationship of God to us changes everything. We have already received everything we will ever need. The day to day living of life is seen differently when reflected in this light.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3

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