WE’VE DONE TERRIBLE THINGS, many of us.
Probably most of us.
Maybe all of us.
No wonder I recently got dished up this question:
If I could ask God one thing, I would ask “Does He really forgive me?”
I picked this as the Bible question of the week because I think a lot of us have so much trouble forgiving ourselves that we find it hard to believe God would forgive us.
The question comes from a friend of mine: Barbara Edwards. She gets a free book for asking the question.
I don’t know what Barbara has done that makes her feel like she’s got a load of baggage full of stinky cheese to drag around wherever she goes.
But I know what I’ve done.
Don’t expect me to tell you. If I had to write a list of my top ten dumb decisions, I’d wad up the paper and eat it before anyone could read it.
I will say this much. I have a daughter and a son. My wife and I raised them to adults. They are cheerful, well-adjusted, married, and happily employed—far as I can tell.
To get them there, I think I did a lot of things right. But from time to time, I got it wrong.
Even now, many years after the fact, when I think about those times I rushed to judgment, something happens in my gut. It feels like a low-pressure frontal system settling in—a depression I can actually feel. I’m not imagining it.
My thought is this, “When I’m gone, I hope that’s not how they remember me.”
We can do a million things right, but when we get one thing wrong, that’s the thing that stands out. It haunts us. It hurts us. It can shred us from the inside out.
All the worse if we got a million things wrong. Or if we physically hurt people. Or if we committed a felony.
Another reason it’s hard to believe God forgives us isn’t because we can’t forgive ourselves—it’s because we can’t forgive others.
Some jerk of a relative or flake of a boss or fake of a friend does us royally wrong. We know what to do. Get gone. And if we can peel out of a gravel driveway, spraying them a good one, very nice.
Forgive them? Heck no.
Years later, maybe. If then.
That is how it words sometimes, in spite of Jesus’ command: “forgive unconditionally anyone who asks” (Mathew 18:35).
Here’s what helps me know God forgives me: My family.
Here’s the reason: In my family, I don’t have a monopoly on Dumb.
Some of the Dumb in the history of my family has come by way of others. Some of that Dumb has hurt me.
But it hasn’t gotten the best of me.
Here’s why: Love trumps Dumb.
I love the souls I journey with through this life. They love me.
There’s no second-guessing over what to do about the Dumb. We do for those souls what God does for us: we trash the Dumb.
“You stomp our sins into the ground then throw it into the deepest sea” (Micah 7:9, Steve’s Bible Translation. See also the New Living Translation.)
My dad did that for me, after all the Dumb I did.
I did it for my kids…easier, since they didn’t Dumb it up as much as I did.
The Father does it for His kids, too.
Even for Barbara.
Maybe especially for Barbara. Love is like that. The more Dumb we do, the more Love we get. Christians often call it Grace. But it’s Love.
How far has the Lord taken our sins from us?
Farther than the distance from east to west!
The family comparison I just made won’t work for everyone. There are some clinically insane families out there in need of horse tranquilizers.
But I think everyone has a comparison that would work. If we’ve forgiven someone, that’s a point of connection with what God does. If we’re big enough to forgive someone, surely God’s big enough to forgive us.
No worries on our part. Just gratitude.
No woe is me. As writer Garrison Keillor might put it, Wobegon.