Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Lesson On Forgiveness

Sometimes I am blinded to how wonderful the forgiveness I have in Christ truly is.  I take for granted, even forget, that I serve a God who is full of grace and mercy.  And then I see an image of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness in the flesh and, like a blind man who regains his sight, I see clearly and vividly what has been right in front of me all along.

A little over a month ago on a lovely afternoon, I was driving to my neighbor Liz's house to drop off her son.  He had joined my kids and I on a fun excursion to Chuck E. Cheese that morning.  As I pulled into her driveway, two of her kids and another boy from across the street were playing out front.  It was nearly lunch time so I didn't have plans to drop in and say hello.  Instead, I thanked her son for joining us and he let himself out of my van.  Before reversing out of her driveway, I rolled down my window and asked all the kids to stand in front of my van where I could see them.  Looking in front of me I counted heads to make sure each kid was accounted for.  I even checked my rear view mirror multiple times.  All clear.  So I slowly backed out of the driveway, keeping my attention on the four waving hands in front of me.

As my back tires reached the street there was a THUMP.  I quickly counted the waving hands in front of me again.  All four were accounted for.  I must have hit the curb, I thought.  But as my front tires reached the street I saw something in front of me lying on the ground: a little dog. 

I looked up and the four waving hands stopped and pointed in horror.  "Cappy!" they cried.


I quickly parked my car on the side of the street and jumped out. 

Friends, this was a sight I will never forget.  The dog was still alive.  I heard his moans.  There was blood.  And their were tears and cries coming from the kids. 

I was scared and shocked.  For a brief moment I was completely frozen.  But the thought, "What do I do?" came rushing into my mind.

Before I had time to think of an answer I saw my other neighbor Kelly, from across the street, running out of her house.  It was her Cappy.   A dog she's had for more than a decade.  As I saw the horror and pain on her face, my heart began to ache. 

What have I done?

"Kelly I didn't see him," I said.  "I'm so sorry.  I didn't see him."

What followed is sort of a blur.  I instructed the kids to go inside to Liz's house.  Kelly came running over to Cappy and asked me, "What should I do?"  I had no answer.  She ran inside her house to call the Vet.  I ran inside Liz's house to check on the kids (my own were still in the car watching all of this).  The kids were all crying and huddled around Liz as she prayed.  I stood there unsure of where my place was.  "Go be with Kelly," Liz kindly says. 

Frankly, that was the last place I wanted to be.  I was aching for Kelly.  I had caused her deep pain.  Reluctantly, I mustered up the courage to run back out, only to watch Kelly wrap Cappy up into a towel and head to her own car.  I ran over knowing there was nothing I could really do at this point.  She laid Cappy into her car and gave me a few instructions to relay to Liz about her son (who had watched the accident) and her baby girl who was already with Liz.  Then she drove off.  I stood there motionless, sorrow and guilt washed over me. 

What have I done?

I went into Liz's house again.  She was still in a prayer huddle with the kids.  I gave her Kelly's instructions.  Liz, with kind eyes and a compassionate voice asked me to stay.

"I have to go," I said.  Tears were welling up.

I ran back out and got into my car.  As I closed the door, the tears burst out of me.  My own kids began asking me questions.  I couldn't answer them.  Guilt consumed me and I just sobbed. 

I drove home and for the next hour I was a wreck.  I ran the scenario back through my head dozens of times.  Each time I never saw the dog.  I tried to perform my motherly duties.  I sobbed through them all.

Then the phone rang.  I saw Kelly's name on the screen.  I tried to collect myself and with shaking hands I answered. 

What followed is a conversation I will remember for the rest of my life.  Full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness Kelly tenderly processed the horror of it all with me.  Cappy was gone.  Death is hard, but death is really hard when you're responsible for it.  Yet, I felt so incredibly loved by Kelly.  Her words were full of grace and forgiveness as she said to me, "I forgive you Renee."

And in that moment, I saw Christ on the cross.  I saw His unmerited grace and forgiveness for me in a way I had never seen it before.  So clear.  So vivid.  And I felt deeply loved.

In the flesh, Kelly was an image of Christ's love for me.  I didn't deserve her grace and forgiveness, yet she freely gave it.

In the week that followed, Kelly poured more and more grace on me.  Never once was she angry, bitter, or accusing.  We both grieved, but she didn't let me grieve alone.  She processed with me. She prayed for me.  She checked up on me. 
 
Friends, I was and am deeply sorry for what I did.  I ache in my heart for the hurt I caused.  Yet, I've felt so loved.  Through Kelly, God has opened my blind eyes to how perfectly He loves me and how perfectly He forgives me.  His grace and mercy have tenderly washed over me.  My heart is overflowing with thankfulness for the undeserved redemption and forgiveness I have in Christ.

Ephesians 1:6-8
"to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

This story doesn't end here.  A few weeks later I had an opportunity to show grace and grant forgiveness to someone who had "hurt" me.  I won't go into great detail.  It wasn't to the degree of the hurt I caused Kelly.  But while I did experience hurt, my hurt was completely overshadowed by the memory of Kelly.  I knew that if Kelly could so graciously forgive me for killing her precious dog, then I must forgive this hurt.

The words of Jesus trumpeted in my ear, "Shouldn't I have mercy on my fellow servant, just as God has had on me?" [Matthew 18:21-35]

As I think about my kids I long for them to vividly see God's grace and forgiveness in their own lives so that they can freely forgive others.

A few weeks after I killed Cappy, I saw Kelly's Kindergartner who wasn't there that day.  I had taken a loved one from this little girl.  I was anxious seeing her.  I wondered if she'd be scared of me or angry with me.

Yet the first thing she says to me is, "I'm sorry you ran over Cappy with your car Ms. Renee.  I'm sorry you're hurting."

That my friends is the gracious and forgiving heart I so desperately want my own children to have. 

Let's pray.

Jesus,
Thank you for the undeserved grace you have extended to me.  Thank you for loving me regardless of who I am or what I've done.  Thank you for granting me Your perfect forgiveness.  Today I pray and ask that You would open the eyes of my children to the redemption and forgiveness of sins that You have freely given them.  I pray it would wash over them.  May they know Your love in all its fullness of mercy.  And may that knowledge in turn give them the courage and strength to love others with gracious and forgiving hearts.