Throwing Rocks

10-Jenny-throwing-rocks

I’ve been tryin’ to get down
to the Heart of the Matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore” (Don Henley).

Kairos was fantastic as usual tonight. Amy Jo Girardier spoke on forgiveness, which probably is something that doesn’t come easy to any of us. Especially those who carry the scars of wounds and words from those who were supposed to nourish and protect.

For some reason, I thought about the scene from Forrest Gump where Jenny is throwing rocks at her old house. It’s the place where her own father abused her for years, where all her woundedness came from. After she throws the last rock, she collapses on the ground into weeping. Forrest Gump say a line which I think is the best line in the whole movie: “Sometimes there aren’t enough rocks.”

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Unforgiveness is like carrying rocks. You visualize confronting the person or persons who cut you with their words, who betrayed your trust, who let you down, who deserted you in your time of need, who feigned friendship while sticking the knife in your back. You imagine what it would be like to use the rocks to wound them like they wounded you.

It seems like the natural thing to do. You have every right to be angry, to hurt, to want justice– even revenge.

But maybe what God is calling you to do is to take those rocks and build an altar. On that altar, you sacrifice your right to be angry. You give up expecting that the person can fix what they did to you. You let go of hatred and of wishing them harm. Instead you learn to pray for them and even eventually love them.

Then you realize you’re not the only one wounded. The person who hurt you was acting out of his own woundedness. He’s continuing the cycle of violence, of cutting words, of lashing out, because it’s all he knows.

Forgiveness breaks the cycle. Forgiveness opens the door of the prison of hate and anger and bitterness and the person who walks out is you. You are the one set free when you choose to forgive.

rocks

One of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis deals with forgiveness and the high cost that comes with it:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘Forgive our trespasses¬†as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”

Forgiveness is hard, but in my experience, not forgiving and carrying the weight and burden of all that anger, bitterness, and hurt is harder.

altar

Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In the Bible, grace and mercy are many times used together. I’ve heard it put this way that grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Mercy is withholding the right to revenge and giving grace instead. One of God’s characteristics is that He is merciful. If anyone had the right to exact judgment on what we’ve done wrong and how we’ve screwed up and when we’ve outright rebelled against Him, it’s God. But He in HIs grace gives us what we don’t deserve– forgiveness– and in His mercy withholds from us what we do deserve– everlasting punishment in hell.

To be merciful is to be like God. To forgive, even when forgiveness is not sought, is to be like God. Mercy is loving the unloveable. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back, but God calls us to love those who are so caught up in and trapped by fear and addictions that they are unable to love us back.

I like the Message version. It says, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

If you show mercy, you get mercy. I also like to think that one of the characteristics of those who have experienced God’s grace and mercy is that they live out that grace and mercy toward others. You forgive much because you have been forgiven much. You don’t worry about the $100 worth of wrong someone did to you when God just forgave the $1 million worth of wrong you did against Him.

Brennan Manning says it best: “Our encounter with Mercy profoundly affects our interaction with others . . . . We look beyond appearances, beneath surfaces, to recognize others as companions in woundedness. Human flesh is heir to the assaults, within and without, of negative, judgmental thoughts, but we will not consent to them because God is merciful to us. We will not allow these attacks to lead us into the sins of self-preoccupation and self-defense. Swimming in the merciful love of Christ, we are free to laugh at the tendency to assume spiritual superiority– in ourselves. We are free to extend to others the mercy we have received.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.