Last Saturday our family pretty much tried to do EVERYTHING and please EVERYONE. As you can imagine, the result was NOT good, and can be summed up by tears and frustration. Just about to go perform in “The Wizard of Oz”, my daughter (Lara) sat crying in our car #dadfail. Fortunately, in leapt my wife (Lisa) with a superpower, forgiveness. This grace not only saved the day for Lara, it made the day great for us all. I’d love to share with you how, because forgiveness is an INCREDIBLE gift we can offer. It’s freedom. It’s a reminder of our inherent goodness. Check it out.
Before Lara’s show, Lisa and I had hustled an hour-plus away to watch two of her granddaughters in a dance recital. Lara asked to stay home, promising she’d get her chores and a couple extra ones done while we were gone. Barely in time to get her to “The Wizard of Oz”, Lisa and I got home and picked her up. “How’d everything go at home?” I asked.
“Good,” came Lara’s standard response.
“Did you have fun with your friends?” I wondered, as I knew her bestie had come over.
“Yeah, we had a good time,” she replied.
Following up I asked, “How did the chores go.”
“I got some of my room done,” she started, “and checked the laundry, but it wasn’t dry so I ran it more.” Long pause. “And then I got distracted and forgot,” she said with a choke in her voice and glistening eyes.
“Hmm,” I responded. “So you’re saying you pretty much didn’t get any of your chores or what you promised done?”
With tears leaking down her cheeks came a “No.”
From there we started talking about what we should do, and by “we” I mean HER. The thought process in my head was: How should Lara make up for not doing what she’d promised? Naturally I was trying to teach and instill responsibility and a keeping of her word in Lara. AND, simultaneously you could truthfully say I was pondering and communicating to my daughter that she needed to do something to reestablish her worth. In short, to become “good” again, she had to earn it by doing extra chores next week, forfeiting allowance, or something like that.
Enter Lisa and the superpower of forgiveness. While Lara and I were trapped by society’s message that favor must be earned, love requires something, and “debts” have to be repaid, Lisa interrupted us with forgiveness. After my tearful daughter said she’d do extra chores next week and get them all done before playing with friends, Lisa said: “Do you think that’s realistic or fun? You have shows next weekend too, and you’ll want to spend time with your friends. Do you think you’ll have a good weekend if you do that?”
“No, but I will,” Lara answered, “and I’ll get them all done to make up for this weekend.”
Here’s the thing, Lara’s amazing NOT because of anything she DOES, but because she’s an INCREDIBLE reflection of our Creator … just like you and I. With that in mind, Lisa said: “Instead, why don’t you just do your normal chores next weekend? How about you learn from this weekend, grow from it, and also still enjoy your friends? Sound good?”
“Yes,” Lara said with a smile.
That night she went on to be one of the few cast members the director named MVPs of that performance, and I think Lisa’s incredible display of grace and forgiveness played an instrumental part in Lara’s success. I say that because forgiveness frees us from burdens, inadequacies, failures, the need to perform, and pressure to be perfect, reminding us of our inherent goodness.
(Lara basking in the glow of a great performance)
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the same week I heard multiple podcasts/books with bits on the power and importance of forgiveness. Richard Rohr writes Jesus’ central themes were forgiveness and inclusion. These are love in action; otherwise it’s meaningless sentimentality. Mindfully forgiving and including others leads to actually doing the radical things Jesus’ invites us to, like loving our enemies and praying blessings on those who curse us.
Along those same lines, here’s something hidden in plain sight in the Bible (at least it was from me!). Put yourself in Jesus’ place. Imagine you’d healed and cared for tons of people, you’d shown immense amounts of grace, and you’d loved others incredibly well, only to be betrayed and abandoned by friends, and killed in the most horrible way imaginable. Then, picture yourself coming back to life. What would you say and do to the friends who betrayed/abandoned you and the people who falsely accused and killed you? I don’t know about you, but I do know I’ve wished hard times on those who hurt me and people I love. Jesus, though, does exactly the opposite. There is NO mention of revenge or reminder of wrong. There’s ONLY forgiveness and inclusion. Love in the flesh.
Hand-in-hand with this, two important things Jesus communicates to the disciples after He’s raised from the dead are peace and forgiveness (see John 20.19-23 as an example). Experience and spread peace and forgiveness, the Christ seems to be saying to both them and us. The early Church echoes these messages in various ways.
As I thought about the transcendent healing power a flood of forgiveness would bring, the story of the woman caught in adultery came to mind. The religious leaders try to trap Jesus by catching a woman in adultery and bringing her to Him for judgment. The Jewish Law said she should be stoned, but they figured He’d be lenient, which would put the Christ at odds with the Law. They ask Him for a verdict, so Jesus says: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” while writing in the dirt. One by one they all leave. Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “where are your accusers?”
“There aren’t anymore,” she answers.
Jesus then sends her off by saying, “then I don’t either. Go and sin no more.”
I’ve heard and thought of that last bit as a: I’m letting you off this time, but knock that crap off, because next time you’ll be in trouble. Not only is that counter to Jesus and grace, though, but in pondering this all a new understanding came to me. What if Jesus is saying: You, beautiful lady, are better than that. YOU are good, faithful, and true in your core. Don’t be burdened by the pressures of society and weight of your past. Go and be free from the load and guilt of sin? I have a hunch that could be close to the mark. 🙂
This brings me to a hypothesis of sorts and one more story about our Saturday. Lisa and I were lucky enough to get to go to the U2 and Mumford & Sons concert on Sunday, which was incredible. On our way in we saw a familiar sight, a few people with signs and shouts effectively proclaiming: Repent and ask for forgiveness of your sins or you’ll go to hell.
What if, I wondered, Jesus’ message and the mission of Christ followers isn’t to tell people we NEED forgiveness or MUST recognize and confess our shortcomings, so much as it is to just show and let EVERYONE know they’re forgiven … period? Is it important to recognize how we mess things up, how we do harm, and the like in order to transform? Absolutely! And I’d like to speculate it’s Christ follower’s occupation to spread forgiveness like it’s a salve for our wounds. We’re called to remind people they don’t have to carry the burdens of their past, their hurts, their faults, their failures, the need to succeed, etc. anymore. I think we already KNOW there are things wrong in the world and our lives, just watch the news. What we thirst and long for are reminders these hurts, wrongs, and sorrows are but threads in a greater tapestry of health, wholeness, goodness, and Love. Forgiveness is a reminder to you that you’re loved as you are without having to do or be anything, and a reminder from you to others of the same. It’s freedom from the weight of performance and competition. Like Lisa’s moment of grace with Lara did for my daughter, forgiveness sets us free to fly.
Lara wasn’t the only one blessed by the superpower of forgiveness on Saturday. Lisa and I were too. While I’m an enthusiast and try to squeeze all the goodness and activities I can into everyday, Lisa aims to please all the peoples. So, on Saturday in addition to our normal housecleaning, laundry, and workouts, and needing to get Lara to her play, we tried to fit in a daddy-daughter date, the trip to see Lisa’s granddaughters perform (complete with 2.5 hours of transit), and a biweekly group get together. In attempting to fit everyone in, it seemed to us we didn’t love any of them well because we had to cut every aspect of the day short and left our family wanting more.
Fortunately, amidst our exhaustion and frustration we allowed the healing power of forgiveness to seep in. We did our best, gave our loved ones everything we could, and next time we’ll communicate more clearly and not try and do so much. In short, we showed ourselves grace and it made all the difference in the world. It freed us from feeling like we had to be perfect and do everything exactly right. It gave us room to breath. And it allowed us to, without beating ourselves up, figure out how to do better next time.
I’d like to bring this all home with this conclusion: Forgiveness is a superpower we can all tap into. It’s Love in action. It frees us from the burdens of life and society to fly, by reminding us of our inherent goodness.
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Grace and peace,