Just This Once

Posted on July 15, 2011


I can do stupid things all by myself.  But every once in a while something bad happens to me… and it’s not my fault.

Once in a blue moon, the source of my misfortune is something is that is 100% out of my control.  It could be anything from a flat tire from a random screw in the driveway to a recession the year I graduate from college.  You all know what I’m talking about: a natural disaster, a car accident, a stroke of “bad luck.” It could be a death in the family, or a cut-back at your office.  All of these circumstances are horrible and sad.  But in very rare cases, something that happens to most people only once or twice in their lifetimes, something awful happens that is the direct result of someone else’s actions.

This is where hate is born.

In Sunday School, that time when my braid was so long I could sit on it and my glasses were a distinct shade of purple, I learned about a story where Jesus’ disciple Peter asked a question about forgiveness.

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Now, I have been in situations where someone did something to me that was not my fault and significantly altered my life.  These are not situations where one can say, “That’s ok, they meant well,” or “they were only trying to do what was best.” No- they meant harm, they were trying to be hurtful!  These circumstances always make me feel powerless, ineffective, and forced into the role of “victim.”  I hate that role! I have heard stories much worse than mine, and as a result, I know people who have a little section of their heart devoted to anger and hatred against the person or group of people who really hurt them.  And I get it.

I have asked Jesus the same question that Peter asked him.  And every time I read that story, I want the answer to say, “Wow Peter, 7 times! That’s generous. I tell you, if they did something really really bad, then truly I say to you, take ‘em out.”

Unfortunately, Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

…Which means that there’s pretty much no loophole when it comes to forgiveness.  And so in circumstances when I am very, very angry and very, very hurt, I can’t help but think,

“All my life I’ve been good, but now! Whoooooooa” (thanks Avril Lavigne, my thoughts exactly).

In this mindset, I start thinking about how forgiving I am.  I think about all the times somebody cut me off and I forgave them.  I think of the times Erik and I argue, and how every argument ends with 2 apologies and 2 “I forgive yous.”  I think about how hard I worked to forgive the person who said that mean thing to me that time.  All in all, I’m a good person.  Right?

Would it really tip the scale so horribly if I were to hate someone for a reason that is completely justified? A person that it would be really painful, and really distressing, to forgive?

Well, that depends on whether or not I want to live my life based on a scale.  If I were to be consistent with this worldview, God becomes a big, scary Santa Claus who weighs my every deed.  As long as I’ve obeyed him most of the time, and resisted temptation more than I have given in, I’m in the clear.  In this mindset, there is absolutely no value in the things God asks us to do (other than brownie points).  If my good actions are really this meaningless, then why do any of them, ever?  In this mindset, I’m not trying to get close to God—I am trying to appease Him.

But I don’t want to merely appease God. I want to know Him! I am not living my life based on a static list of do’s and don’t—I am striving with every action I take to learn to live as a person under the grace of God.  Silly rules, like forgiving people an inordinate amount of times, suddenly hold value.  They are a part of God’s work in my life and the lives of those around me, and a part of God showing me the insanity of the forgiveness he offered us through Jesus. I don’t obey these rules so that my scale will tip a little, I obey them so that my heart will be changed a lot.

I have come to the conclusion that the times when we are most tempted to disobey God are the times where it is most essential to trust him.  Those times when it your body begs you to sleep with that person, just this once.  The times when you really want to be skinny for an event and so you abuse your body, just this once.  The times when it’s a big day, and so you’re going to get trashed, just this once.  The times when your mind asks you to cheat on the most important test of your life, just this once... and the times when your heart is screaming at you to hate the family who hurt you, just. this. once.

These are not the moments when God’s rules are unimportant, these are the moments when His calling on you shines with an imploring fire. Farrell, trust me.  They are the moments when God shapes you, that he uses to show the world that love wins.  Let me show you how much I love those you hold most despicable.

It is not difficult for me to forgive Erik after an argument, or learn to forgive the annoying person at work.   It is not hard for me to stop hating everyone driving on the highway next to me, or forgive a friend for being late for a lunch date.   It is excruciatingly difficult for me to forgive the people who have hurt me the most. And that is why I need to.

Posted in: Seriously