“Did you leave yet?” I frantically asked. “Please don’t go, we’ve been robbed!” The minute we saw that our window had been smashed and our car broken into, I called our son, who was in another vehicle with our daughter, his wife and mother and father in-law, leaving from the same parking lot as us. It was our first night in San Francisco and they’d bought some furniture at IKEA and we’d just had dinner together at a fantastic indoor market. One moment laughing and joking, the next – shock and disbelief.
The thief didn’t take the furniture or anything else that was in the rented SUV with the exception, unfortunately, of my husband’s backpack containing a computer, ipad and a good amount of cash. The police officer that arrived and filled out the report was kind but visibly bored by the incident expressing, “It happens all the time.”
It was unpleasant for us getting our property stolen, but no doubt it was unpleasant for the person doing the stealing. Maybe not in that particular moment, but certainly at some point in their life prior. Babies are born with a yearning to be nurtured and cared for, not with the intention of someday doing criminal acts. What has happened to this individual up until this point and what do they endure on a daily basis?
We were upset by what occurred and shook up for sure, but after a bit we huddled and prayed for the situation and for the person that took our stuff. I know we’ll be okay, but will they?
If we, as a human family, would seek to contemplate, to understand and to assist as often as we chose to judge and to hate, imagine the amount of love and grace that could be increased throughout the world.
It’s simple to criticize, scorn, mimic, misunderstand and feel hostility toward other people, especially those that have wronged us, but how can we perceive if we haven’t experienced their dark valleys? How can we “get it” if we haven’t seen or thought about the pot holes or decaying streets they may’ve been hopelessly navigating for years, with no recalculation of a better route?
It’s truly a challenge to view the world through other’s eyes, but maybe we could try.
Who am I to judge anyone? Who are you? The answer is that you, like me, are a child of God, deeply loved and treasured. He loves us fairly and impartially. He loves you and I just as much as he loves the person that made off with our things. He sees us and ALL of our faults, flaws and sins and yet loves each of us equally. He knows the roads we’ve traveled, the baggage we’re carrying, and He’s involved in the unfolding of every story.
Our drive from Illinois to California, previous to this moment with shattered glass at our feet, was incredibly beautiful and unforgettable. Many nights we drove straight into the setting sun and the colors took our breath away. Our destination was this historic and hilly, eclectic city in which we were able to visit where our son and daughter-in-law are residing and help them get settled in. This event could’ve darkened the rest of our time together and our memories of the whole trip, but we wouldn’t allow it.
I determined long ago that joy would be my default setting. I’ve found that the only way to free up the joy that often gets tied down and buried because of outside (and inside) circumstances is to make the art of forgiving a deeply serious and thought-out, loving intention. It goes hand in hand. You can’t have joy without forgiveness and love.
God models and extends grace, undeserved forgiveness, for those of us that ask. He forgives us, so we must forgive others.
First and foremost though, forgiveness needs to be given to ourselves, from ourselves.
We must forgive ourselves for not being perfect. We must forgive ourselves for not loving others the way God calls us to. We must forgive ourselves for looking down our noses at others – finding a reason why we think we’re superior and they don’t measure up.
Sometimes we’re obedient to God by volunteering or ministering to those less fortunate, all the while thinking that those we’re helping are lucky to be receiving our time or resources. But maybe God shakes his head and chuckles because He sees our disdainful attitudes and knows that we’re the ones in dire need.
God sees our dirty, greasy, smug, self-loving hearts and yet, He still forgives and He still loves.
Who am I to judge or to size up another of God’s dearly beloved children and deem them not worthy or unforgivable?
Day by precious day we’re all heading west, toward our own final, radiant sunsets. We’ll miss the brilliance and the majesty if we spend our minutes pronouncing, condemning, despising.
Forgiveness is never easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
If we ask … God will forgive us, and also give us the desire, the illumination, and the momentum to start right where we are, forgiving ourselves and forgiving others, so that we can then strive to honor Him better and better and go about our lives with our heart gauges continually redirecting us back to joy.
Go ahead … just ask.
| Photo credit above – Marina Prather |
Luke 6 : 35-37 “Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned that they may not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.”