I do an extraordinary amount of stupid stuff. I can sit in my chair and think about something I did 6 months ago, and simply groan at the stupidity of it all. The dumb comment I made. The poor choice. The harsh words I used. The foolish thing I did.
Am I a good person in spite of all my stupidity? Yes, I think so. Some of the people that are on the receiving end of my dumb choices might beg to differ a bit, but yes, in my heart, I am “good”. If I’m in 100 situations, I probably bet 90 of them right, so I’m batting at a pretty decent average, in spite of my strike-outs.
Like many, I sometimes wonder if I’m “worst” than most. I don’t go to church much anymore (long story), but when I did, I would feel dirty as I looked around at all these folks jumping and proclaiming their love for Christ. To me, this translated to me that they were WAY farther along in their walk with God than I was, because I sure as heck wasn’t jumping up and down nor hugging everyone I see. I stood solemnly, prayed quietly, and left. Sometimes it made me feel disconnected from the service, and made me feel like there was something broken in me that caused me keep the “experience” of church at an arm’s length. Is there something wrong with me? Probably not, but appearances matter.
Back to me being an idiot.
When I have wronged others, and when I own up to that mistake, I typically will seek forgiveness. Sometimes that is a deep apology and a humble expression of my regret. Sometimes it means sitting one of my kids down, and getting down to their eye level and saying “Kid, I’m truly sorry for snapping at you.” Sometimes it simply means inviting my friend out for a beer and while laughing over a drink, I’ll say “Brother, sorry for that whole deal. That was stupid. How’s the wife and kids?” The intention is the same – the delivery can differ.
Sometimes I receive the forgiveness I am seeking. We are able to fist bump or hug it out and get on living. My kids can’t get rid of me so we tend to remedy our differences. My friends will normally drop the frustration and move on with me. However, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Sometimes the person on the receiving end of your idiocy simply won’t return your calls. Sometimes they block you on Facebook, block your phone number, and never respond to your email. Sometimes they decide that your sin is just too much for them and they drop you like a bad habit.
I’ve probably done this very thing to others, so I can at least relate to it. I’ve been wronged in some horrific ways, and I can sympathize with saying “Ya know, if I never talk to that guy again for the rest of my days, I’m good with that.” I’ve done it. You’ve done it.
Want to know who has NEVER done it? That’s right, God.
I was reading my new most favorite book EVER, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” and have stumbled across countless jewels in the book. If you haven’t read it, do it tomorrow. It’s about $3 on Amazon. It’ll change you. But back to my point, I read the following passage:
“Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
There they are. There WE are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”
Isn’t that a beautiful passage? Have you ever wanted to be faithful? Ever been defeated? Soiled by life and bested by trials? Yeah, me too. But have you clung to your faith? If all that is true, then you understand the gift that God has bestowed upon us all and its incalculable value. If we’ll receive it from God (and thankfully so), then why do we struggle so much with extending it to others? I know the answer is because we’re human, but it’s certainly something to chew upon the next time you’re sitting on the backporch. You understand the gift of Grace from God, but you also understand that you’re not extending the same grace to your ex-friend, ex-spouse, ex-person. Ouch.
Somebody told me one time that forgiveness doesn’t always have to mean that you rush up to your previous enemy and hug them and proclaim that all is well and that you have forgotten their wrongs they perpetuated against you.
Sometimes it simply means that you wish them a good life. I’ve actually done this and have found it to be true. I had a person (who shall remain nameless because it doesn’t matter) that hurt me profoundly and maliciously. I was really cut off at the knees and hurt extremely deeply. For years, I refused to talk to this person because just thinking about them hurt. However, I became to realize that my anger and hurt wasn’t hurting them – it was hurting ME. So with a pained expression on my face, I finally had to say “I hope you have a great life”. That’s the best I could do, but it was a huge step. And looking back at the change that has occurred, I actually mean those words now for that person.
People are both crazy and beautiful. They are sloppy and yet refined. They are mean, yet gracious. I’m all of those things, too. Just remember that you gladly accept the gift of grace from God…and you might try to extend it equally. It’s not fun sometimes, and it hurts sometimes, but I’m a Ragamuffin, and so are you, and so are your enemies.
If all else fails, I had another friend tell me about one of their enemies once, and he said, “I have forgiven him as much as I can. I have to spend eternity with him, but I don’t have to do it here.” That works, too.