I'm starting the week with gratitude for "forgiveness." I'm grateful above all for God's forgiveness-- past and ongoing--that is a gift beyond comprehension. But right now I'm thinking of person to person forgiveness.
On Friday morning I woke up "out of sync." I should have been confined to the bedroom and not let out until after sunset because overnight my hands and feet seem to have sprouted hair and long nails and my eyes glowed an eerie red. Well, if the state of people's hearts were visible on the outside, that would have been my appearance--The Creature from the Blue Lagoon--on steroids! At least people would have had fair warning and stayed clear.
I was not fit for conversation and should have had my mouth firmly zippered shut.
But...I ventured from the bedroom, and into the unsuspecting world with mouth fully engaged and in gear. The universe must have shuddered and whispered, "Here she comes. Batten down the hatches."
It didn't take long for the toxic waste that was swirling in my heart to make its way up through my larynx and out of my mouth in the form of nastiness. I think I exhausted at least a year's worth of deposits in Paul's emotional bank account within half an hour over breakfast.
I got into Paul's kindly loaned Honda CRV to drive to work (my ancient Honda Civic being in for routine maintenance.) By the time I got to my destination the dealership was calling. My 12 year old well used car is on borrowed time, they informed me. Some of the planned maintenance was not advisable for fear of dislodging part of the rusty main frame. But it will be okay, they said, to drive close to home.
I called Paul to tell him the news. And since sanity was beginning to return, I apologized for my "grouchiness" (quite a euphemism) at breakfast.
Forgiveness can be given in theory, but the hurt and damage takes longer to heal. I was feeling more human and the hair and long nails were vanishing from my hands and feet, but I left behind me an emotional wake--footprints with stinky steam rising from them.
I did a lot of thinking over the next two days about what happened to set me off on that disastrous course of behaviour. I could think of a couple of minor triggers, but nothing to excuse what happened. It was irrational. And I could hold myself together for the rest of the world, but not for the ones closest to my heart.
It was good news to be reminded in church today that I am not unusual. My behaviour--well maybe that was unusual--but the basic hearts of us all, are bent the wrong way. And sometimes the veneer of civility slips and what really lies not far from the surface oozes out. In my case it wasn't pretty.
Our pastor preached a sermon entitled, The Bible's Greatest Themes--Justification and Sanctification.
"Justification" he explained, is the "Legal Side of Things." Christ's death was in our place--the debt for all we fall short of is paid--we are forgiven because of his sacrifice.
"Sanctification," that is the" Living Side of Things," he went on. And he told us how from early on we learn to say "no," to manipulate, and be selfish. We may be forgiven, but we still need a change of heart.
No contest there--and relief that it isn't accomplished by trying harder to cover up "the uglies," or to be nice. I know that is ineffective at best. I am happy to put up my hands in surrender and ask for all that he offers in remodeling. Like my old car--it isn't good enough to patch up the rusty old frame. I need God's "new." So that's what I'm holding out for--all that he has promised.
I loved this hymn when I was a just a young girl in a Church of England public school in the U.K. From somewhere, it came to mind as I was writing this.
O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.
O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
O let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.
O let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in Heaven receive me, my Savior and my Friend.
John E. Bode 1868