Something happened to me about 25 years ago that I’ve never told anybody about. Until now.
At the time I was working for a company that sold and serviced two-way radios. From time to time some of our customers would come in to pay their bill in person. One day as I was talking with a co-worker at her desk, a man walked by on his way to pay his bill. As he walked by the woman scowled and after he had turned a corner, she turned to me and spoke. In a low voice she said, “That guy always gives me the creeps when he comes in.”
“Why?” I asked a bit puzzled.
“He was arrested for child abuse.”
So, now I understood why she got the creeps.
I’m not sure when the next part happened, but it was at least days later. Could have been months or years for that matter. I was in a co-worker’s office in the service area going over some accounting numbers with him. When we were done, I left to go to my office. But coming out I saw the “creepy man”. He was waiting for some help with a radio and was blocking my path out. I stood there transfixed. I didn’t want to interact with him. I looked at him feeling superior and feeling very put out that he was blocking my path. I’m not sure how long I stood there. But then I heard a voice without using my ears.
“If I can forgive him, why can’t you?”
It’s pretty easy to figure out that I’d just been given a message from God, who was not pleased with my attitude. I quietly squeezed past the man with an “excuse me”.
I feel I should make a distinction here. There is a difference between forgiving and condoning. Even when God forgives us our actions are still a source of sadness.
Before you think that about how special I am because God spoke to me, let me remind you that I received a message because I needed more direction. So, if you haven’t been spoken to it might be because you don’t need as much help as me.
This was just correction in the moment, but it was also a correction that I needed in my life. I’ve tried to follow the advice I was given. I’ve forgiven people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve forgiven people who didn’t earn their forgiveness. I’ve forgiven people who have hurt me. It’s sometimes hard to forgive and to let things go. Sometimes I can hang onto the hurt, like that little piece of a popcorn kernel that’s stuck between your tooth and your gum and you can’t stop trying to work it free with your tongue. Other times it’s been a blessing to me to be able to let it go and put it in God’s hands. I hope it’s been a blessing to others as well. My hope is that by modeling God’s behavior I’ve given people an example of God’s love for them.
I’ve learned that we don’t get to decide who God forgives. We don’t decide who deserves forgiveness. We don’t decide who’s earned forgiveness. Those decisions are made by God, who forgives because of love. God doesn’t give forgiveness to those who earn it or to those who deserve it. God gives it to everyone. It’s up to you to accept forgiveness.
Next time you’re feeling superior or put out because of something someone has done, remember forgiveness. God loves that person and can forgive them, so why can’t you.
And next time you’re feeling inferior or down on yourself because of something you’ve done or something that’s happened to you, remember forgiveness. God loves you and can forgive you, so why don’t you.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.