Jesus said, “Forgive seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.
But it isn’t just Jesus who tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, not to forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves,as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.
Most of us deal with the sins and transgressions of others in the moment. We get mad, pull away, and then make up and go on. When we are the transgressors, we do the same. With minor goofs and slip-ups, we feel bad in the moment, apologize, and then continue with life.
Once upon a time, a package was delivered to a young woman. When she opened it, her eyes blazed, and she became very angry.
Although infuriated over receiving this parcel, she nonetheless took it with her wherever she went. Soon other packages arrived, and she had to get a larger bag to put them in so she could continue to carry them with her.
Every morning, she dutifully picked up her bag, which was growing heavier and heavier. She took it with her on the bus to work and when she met with the girls for coffee or a glass of wine.
It went with her to family gatherings and remained on her back as she fixed meals and adjusted her load to make the beds and do the laundry.
“What alone is ‘the last of human freedoms’ – is the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” -Victor Frankl
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Jew who lived during the Nazi regime in Germany. He, along with his entire family, was sent to Nazi concentration camps. He ended up in Auschwitz, one of the most dreaded WWII camps.
Except for his sister and himself, his entire family perished in one of those sites. Every possession was taken from them, and the Jews who weren’t shot or sent to the gas chamber endured years of unspeakable horror.
Psalm 18 begins: “I love you, God – you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God – the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout.” (The Message)
When everything around us seems to be crashing and we think nothing else could possibly happen, it invariably does.
Problems have a domino effect. One problem creates another and so on. At such times, we reach out to friends for help and support and turn to God for encouragement and hope.
In London’s underground stations you hear a mechanized voice say, “Mind the Gap,” as you prepare to board a tube train.
That “gap” between platform and train is usually quite small and as a tourist, after the novelty wears off, you take for granted the need to watch your step and the recording simply becomes one of those endearing facets of the London experience.
Neil Gaiman, in his book, Neverwhere, artfully creates a more sinister reason for “minding the gap” in his fantasy story about London above ground and the London below.
My thoughts and feelings ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. I close my eyes and pictures from the past flood my mind.
Seagulls wheel and soar above the ocean waves. On the sandy beaches below, patterns and ridges are being shaped and molded by incoming tides. Sea grasses dance in the wind at the ocean’s edge, weaving shadows of beauty and grace on endless sand. The sun’s kisses on the tips of waves turn them into sparkling diamonds that dazzle the eye.
At any moment in time, things can happen that will disrupt our day. But we can learn valuable insights during such times. Disruptions can become profound teachable moments. Such an event occurred to me.
I was washing clothes, preparing for our family to leave the following day on a camping trip. The water flow going into my washing machine was exceedingly slow. I had been improvising by attaching a hose from my laundry tub faucet to my washing machine to fill it.
When the phone rang in our office, I didn’t bother to shut off the faucet, thinking I would only be a minute.
As I listened to commentators reveal background stories about athletes competing in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, I was reminded of how many major setbacks and obstacles these men and women overcame in order to compete for an Olympic gold medal.
After spending most of their lives developing and perfecting their skill, major injuries or other overwhelming tragedies could require them to start all over again. And then, after all their hard work, their dream for gold might be replaced by a bronze or silver, or even more heartbreaking, to not even make it into the finals, oftentimes measured by a thousandth of a second or a fraction of a point.
Years ago, I worked for a company contracted to help injured workers in chronic pain recover and re-enter the workplace. Most had been injured on the job, even with all the safety precautions.
As part of their rehabilitation and recovery program, they attended a two-week all-day class. Most were not happy to be there; in fact, some were downright hostile. Yet after one week, we began to see a transformation of attitudes, mindset, and way of thinking.
It was always amazing to watch this metamorphous from hopelessness, despondency, and despair to one of possibility, expectation, and motivation.
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