Tag Archives: forgiveness

Dishwasher Inspections

I’ve been inspecting dishes as I unload the dishwasher for many years now, perhaps you do too.  The thing is, the jets in that machine are fabulous at what they do, washing many dishes at the same time, but there are a few food bits that can hang on until they get some special attention from someone with a good eye and a soapy dish cloth, perhaps even one of those plastic scrapers. (I love my scraper!)

It occurred to me, we Christians are the same… It’s not that we need to be ‘saved’ twice, Jesus did all that was required in one shot.  He promised that whoever trusted in Him would belong to Him, done deal.  We who believe all “have our place in the cupboard”, as it were, but some have more stuck-on stains than others.  Some need special attention, just like the dishes.

The bad news is, we ‘dishes’ look at one another & start comparing….the plate sees a spot of milk in the mug, and the spoon sees a bit of egg between the tines of the fork, and we start refusing to share our cupboard space with one another.  It’s especially easy for those of us who were either well rinsed before the washing, or were barely used to hold a piece of toast.   How clean we are! Balderdash – the measure is spotless, and no one qualifies.

The good news is, Jesus inspects and gives that extra cleaning that’s required.  It may take a little time and some elbow grease, but He will get us cleaned up and useful.

There’s more good news – Jesus isn’t Doug.  Doug, you see, has a rather disposable view of dishes.  If he can’t get something clean enough to suit him, he’ll throw it away, smashing it to bits if possible.  (Doug doesn’t have many glass dishes now)  Jesus, on the other hand, will continue to pick and scrape and wipe and rinse, using as much time, soap, and as hot of water as He sees fit.  We may not enjoy all that attention, but we can rest assured that if we belong to Him, He will never give up & throw us away.

As you look at one another, or as you unload your dishwasher, remember:  Some of us have more set-in stains, so show some grace, even if it’s to yourself.

Scapegoat!

“Must I be the scapegoat for the damages to your community, real and perceived, because of my heritage?”

The previous article, ‘Prejudiced?‘, addresses my honest disagreement with the theory that everyone is prejudiced.  We do not all pre-judge negatively without evidence.  I do concede that we all automatically assesses new situations, people, and substances on the basis of what we already know and how much we are willing to explore beyond known parameters.  That’s our natural core learning process.

Wise parents employ this process as they tell a child that the stove is off-limits because it is hot and contact with its heat will hurt.  Then, either the child tests the theory for themselves or they trust the parent, generally a mix of both.  When the child then approaches a candle or a bonfire, the parent again says something like “ouch! hot!”, and the similarity of the situation is registered, in most cases without a flaming child to show for it.

It is possible, of course, to have too much of a good thing.  This is how ideas like prejudice and other forms of judgmental behavior get passed down through cultures, from generation to generation.  A parent, wishing the best (or at least the minimum pain) for their child, and knowing the harsh realities of the adult world around them, may warn that being friends with the pick-your-poison child down the street will result in pain.  Black, white, hispanic, Jewish, Asian, wealthy, poor, orphaned, offspring of an addict or pervert, crippled, stuttering, Christian, Mormon, Atheist…it really doesn’t matter.  Humans insist on sorting and determining their value by outranking other humans.  The sweet innocence of childhood that first sees another child as a potential playmate or competitor is twisted into seeing that child as a danger, if not directly, then by the response of the adults around them, starting at home.  The Disney film “Ruby Bridges” does a fabulous job of illustrating this point.

(spoiler alert) As the film concludes, some of the children make the brave choice to defy their parents’ restrictions and decide for themselves whether this different person is an acceptable playmate, at least within the boundaries of school.  Their courage, in part, comes from observing other adults around them who hold a different viewpoint and are willing to act on it in the face of great ugliness.  (end of spoiler)

I was raised to believe that God made Adam & Eve, their babies had babies, and here we are, all the same.  Everybody laughs, cries, and, according to a popular children’s book, Everyone Poops.  Between my family and some Divine arrangements, I had friends with every color of skin and hair, and most varieties of physical and/or mental limitations.  If you approach me like a reasonable person, I will respond to you as though you are a reasonable person, until you signify otherwise.  If you approach me as though your hair’s on fire, don’t get upset if I dump a bucket of water on your head.

This is why the assertion that “everybody is prejudiced” strikes me as a gross overstatement ignoring those of us who are not (we do exist).  Since there’s a commonly supported notion that white Christians who take Genesis literally and live above the poverty level are completely unaware of life in the real world, I decided to ask some of my real world friends about this alleged blind spot.  (Incidentally, the belief that I can’t think rationally or compassionately because I’m not an obvious member of the classically downtrodden groups smacks of it’s own prejudice, doesn’t it??  Logic and elementary mathematics would say ‘yes’.)

Ok, back to the discussions with a variety of people outside of my demographic group… (see? willingness to explore beyond my known parameters)  My neighbor answered with a sad smile, “Many people are still stuck in that way of thinking, so it’s hard to trust people until you get to know them.”  Fair.  The degree to which you’ve been convinced, directly or indirectly, of the danger of interacting with people like me will naturally dictate how much you’re willing to risk to give me a chance.  Some of us say “innocent until proven guilty”, others say “guilty until proven innocent”.  My neighbor and I are among the first group, willing to give people a chance, and both finding a new friend in the process.  We’ve both met people from the second group.

Another answer was striking, and I suddenly found myself carrying on two conversations at the same time.  Two men in ministry together, building bridges across the racial divide, were invited to speak in our class.  I stayed afterward to discuss this matter with them, specifically with the non-white man.  I reminded him that we’d never met, I’d never acted directly to harm him or his community, but if I showed up in his neighborhood, I would immediately be viewed with suspicion – he agreed to these points.  I then asked the fateful question,  “Must I be the scapegoat for the damages to your community, real and perceived, because of my heritage?”  Without a blink or a pause for thought or breath, he looked me in the eye and firmly said “Yes.”

As he was drawing a breath to explain, the other conversation started…  “I was the scapegoat for you.”  I struggled to take in the rest of what the man had to say, not because his words were difficult, but because I had ringing in my mind and soul the weight of this truth:  Jesus, perfectly innocent, willingly accepted the position of scapegoat.  He withstood both the wrath of God and the abuse of humanity, in order to give me a chance to be in relationship with Him.

The man standing before me went on to explain a strong community dynamic within certain cultures, including African, African American and Hispanic.  They grow up under a teaching that the sins of one stain them all.  The core mindset of these cultures declares that if one steals, all are guilty of theft and share, at least psychologically, in the need to provide restitution.  When they see others, said he, they don’t first see an independent individual, they see a representative of the whole community, equally deserving of whatever affection or wrath that community has earned.  This actually provides some insight to the longstanding and violent issues between groups in the Middle East, and by global extension, the vicious enmity they hold toward the Western world.  We won’t be able to resolve the matter militarily or diplomatically, it goes too deep.

I politely listened to all the man had to say, but I had already received a clear answer.  Jesus’ gentle whisper spoke volumes and left no room for rebuttal.  His command is that we follow Him, carry our own crosses, be His representatives to others, and extend His invitation to those around us.  Sometimes this means we are in the position of scapegoat.  He was ours.

It may interest future readers to know that this is published on Good Friday,
the day we consider Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

Love Dare, Conclusion

I chose to walk through the Love Dare book, taking on the challenge to actively express God’s love to another person, when it’s not convenient, fun, or particularly rewarding.  Meeting the challenge for Day 2 took two weeks.  I don’t recall at the moment what the Day 3 challenge is, but lack of a post tells me I didn’t accomplish it.

It turns out, the Love Dare might need to be tweaked a little if one is to apply the principles in a situation that isn’t marriage, or at least roommates.  The word ‘duh’ comes to mind, but the principles are still good ones, many applicable to most relationships.  I’m still convinced that I was supposed to at least start the adventure.  Day 2 was worth it.

There has been a separation, a significant time apart, which we all know does wonders for reducing friction.  I have genuinely prayed for the person, that a time established for refreshment would bring with it a new experience of love and grace that would then overflow to the way this person conducts business.  Many have prayed for us both.

I doubt there will be any apologies, though I’d be pleased to accept them.  Herein lies the key to forgiveness – releasing the matter, and yourself, whether or not the other person(s) ever gain an understanding or respect for your vantage point and the injury they have caused.  Why rehearse painful memories that the other person(s) doesn’t consider, or may not even be aware of?  It has been compared to holding a burning coal in your hand, hoping the other person finds the heat painful.

That being said, there is also wisdom in boundaries.  You don’t have to continue subjecting yourself to the person(s) and/or situation(s) that bring injury.  While you may be locked into a tense situation for a time, you do not have to be controlled by it.  Do what is required, then go your way in peace, relying on your relationship with God to give the affirmation and confidence you need.  The command to forgive doesn’t carry with it the necessity to invite the person to tea.

“But, we’re married…”  Hmm…yes, this does up the ante significantly, and thankfully (!very!) isn’t part of my recent conflict.  Still, as a married person, some portion of your time can be spent on your own pursuits, of God, or literature, crafting or the outdoors, or developing supportive relationships beyond the limits of your household (preferably with the same gender, or with couples).  Oh, and the Love Dare, being written for marriages, would more aptly apply to your case than mine.

The ugliness between us has highlighted several things, been a source of ministry to others, and I have been vindicated and reminded that not all criticism is accurate, no matter what its source.  As with any other challenge, I have grown stronger, wiser, and closer to God.  That makes it worth it, and frankly, there’s no foreseeable scenario where I would have to cross paths or swords with this person again.  That’s a reason to give thanks.

Not Again!!

I took my dog to the park yesterday, and within half an hour, she rolled in poop, again! We’ve had this discussion before, she and I, that the substance she takes such joy in is post-digested and discarded food from another dog – it’s downright gross, how could she find this appealing??!!

Of course, I called her a stupid dog, dragged her from the park, and made her run outside the car for the three miles to our home. I got the garden hose out from winter storage and dragged it through the snow to the faucet, thankful that it wasn’t frozen. After I got her sprayed off outside, I dragged her in to the tub, scolding her all the way.

Why on earth do dogs roll in poop, and how dare mine disregard my rules on the matter? Didn’t she realize the expense I had endured in providing her with a good home, soft bed, healthy food, plenty of toys, and even outings to the park so she could meet other dogs? Didn’t she understand the thousands I had already spent on vet bills, worm pills, and when she was a pup, replacing chewed up windowsills?

I ignored her yelps as the soap suds went in her eyes and the hot water coursed down her back – after all, it was her fault that our day of fun had been cut short – she’s the one who couldn’t resist the subhuman draw of fresh feces. I guess I should have known better, she’s just a mutt, not as special as an AKC registered champion – you never hear tell of the Westminster entrants enjoying such disgusting breeches of etiquette.

Put your phone book away, there’s no need to call the Humane Society –

I don’t actually have a dog. I once had cats, cherished them, spoiled them, and occasionally got intensely frustrated with them when their digested food wound up in corners and carpets rather than the variety of litter boxes I had purchased, or when they mistook my very nice furniture for their almost-as-nice scratching posts. I have friends & family who have dogs, also cherished, also spoiled, and also occasionally maddening. We get animals and put up with the pain of them for the joy and companionship they bring. There’s something about being greeted with enthusiasm when you come home from a long day, hang up the phone after getting awful news, or just feel like twirling around the living room to your favorite tunes. There’s something about the sheer joy of a wagging tail or the contentment and peace in a steady purr. We know they don’t think like us, and many times, we see that as a good thing. I really miss my cats, scratches, smells, and all.

So why did I write this awful scene about a dog doing what dogs do? Because it illustrates what many of us do to ourselves all too often. Mind you, I’m not beyond a harsh word or a spray of water when it comes to reminding pets that their place is not the kitchen counter, but I love them too much to be insanely brutal. Turns out, I don’t give myself the same grace, and my Master and I have been discussing that since my last ‘poop-roll’.

What do you say to yourself after you blow it? After you do the one thing you’ve promised a hundred times never to do again? Maybe it’s overeating, getting drunk, picking up that one resolve-killing cigarette, or waking up beside the guy/gal you’ve only been dating for a week… Do you drag yourself by the collar, recite your worthlessness and lack of pedigree, and recalculate the many blessings and ‘second’ chances you’ve wasted? Do you hide from the One who loves you, either in fear or in shame, willing to do anything that doesn’t involve facing His forgiving gaze? Do you have trouble wrapping your human mind around the idea that He who created you, died in your place, and rose again to call you unto Himself would still want you? That He would be willing to load you, poopy collar and all, into the family vehicle, drive you home, put you in the tub, wash you off gently (but thoroughly), then with a flourish of the towel set you free to run scampering through the house freshly clean? It makes sense when we love our dogs that much; it’s confusing when we think of God loving us the same, rather, even more.

As much as our minds differ from those of our dogs, as much as their tendency to be distracted by various sounds and smells is beyond our human comprehension, to that same distant degree, God’s mind differs from ours, and He loves us even though we can be so easily distracted by what He knows to be profane. He created us for companionship and for the joy of sharing our revelry in His care. He knows we are warped, and though He makes no excuses for it and He calls us to enjoy a higher quality of life, He is also willing to give us baths as needed, until we finally get Home, where there is no poop to roll in.

I was also reminded that my friend’s dog is not mine, and I would never dream of treating her so harshly, because I love my friend and my friend loves her dog. Likewise, I am not mine, I am His, thus I have no business being so harsh with His beloved.

Jump and scamper for joy – your Master loves you and has washed you clean. (again)

see Isaiah 55

Paid

You’ve heard her story before – or have you???

She found herself in an ungracious heap at the Teacher’s feet.  She had dared to listen to Him a few times, usually from a place of hiding – there was no place among these good people for the likes of her.  She had allowed herself to dream that maybe, if she could become a better person, just maybe she could meet Him someday.  Never, in her worst nightmares, did she imagine she would meet him like this – caught in her sin, moments from execution by stoning, no defense, no excuse, no place to hide.

Curled up in the dust, without so much as a fig-leaf, she somehow heard the unspoken conversation as the Teacher wrote in the dirt…

“There is a Law! There is a Penalty!”

“Yes.  I will pay it.”

“This sin is punishable by Death!”

“Yes.  I will pay it.”

“She is Guilty!  She chose this life; she brought the consequence on herself!”

“Yes.  I will pay it.”

…thud…thud…thud… she heard the stones falling, but didn’t feel the first one.  What she felt, rather, was a warm coat being draped over her – His coat.  He helped her to her feet, she looked into His eyes, and her heart said “Lord, I am a sinner, I have much to pay for.”  He returned her gaze – “Yes.  I will pay it.”  “Go, and sin no more.”

Out of His abundance of love, grace, and mercy, He paid – there is enough and more for everyone who will recognize their complete inability to pay for themselves – those who fall, without pretense, defense, or excuse, at His feet.  These will hear Him say, “Your debt is now mine, no matter it’s amount from time past to eternity, I have paid it.”

So you’ve been saved – you’re beyond the point of needing this information – or are you???

Someone offends you – they’ve caused you pain and they owe you an apology, at the very least.  It’s time to pray, and this person’s name comes to mind.  You stuff down a snarl and try to resume praying, and you hear:

“How much?”

            “What?”

“How much does this person owe you?”

“Well, you know, they…but, Lord, that’s not Your problem.”

“Actually, it is…I have taken on their debt as I have yours, so, how much do I owe you?”

Could you answer that question with anything but forgiveness?

He knows, He understands, and He has already Paid In Full.  Go, and condemn no more.