I've long believed that forgiveness is one of the most desirable qualities a human being can have. Whether in a friend, a wife, a parent, or whatever other crazy relationships we dream up, forgiveness just matters. Of course, a few of us just nod our heads at this concept, say "oh yeah, of course it is" but rarely do we look at the assumptions, the roots, the truth behind the thought. The reality of forgiveness is this - nothing demonstrates mercy and grace quite like it. I probably haven't rocked any worlds yet, but my most recent realizations have been tied to this concept:
Forgiveness is what you do when you are owed everything and freely accept nothing.
Consider all our petty issues as human beings. I'm frustrated with my job while children in Africa starve to death in numbers that I can't count every day. Girls are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery in third world countries, and I am terribly concerned about how the lady behind my house parks her car so that I have to orchestrate an 18 point turn that begins with me backing out of the garage at a 35 degree angle to go grab some ice cream. We've all been guilted like this before, right? I have, and so have you... but try this one on for size, it might just really hit home.
How many times do we sacrifice an evening, a week, a friendship, over something that really didn't matter? I get an angry phone call at work and my day is ruined. I feel wronged by my friend so I cut them out. I feel like that guy who cut me off is an absolute jerk. We're all so entitled... so quick to anger. And we fail to realize that whether we are owed or not, our reaction should be one of grace, and in it strength. When we fail to forgive we admit that the size of our perceived offense is so much greater than us that we do not have the power to forgive it. I guess my reminder here is to remember - what really matters? Are you willing to sacrifice a relationship (friendship, marriage, or otherwise) so that you can let someone else know you were wronged? How many of the things in life that we feel are so heinous have we forgotten about within a week? (most) a month? (almost all) a year? (all). Why on earth would we be willing to sacrifice a lifetime of togetherness for something so trivial...
Because we don't have a proper understanding of our rights, our belongings, or what we deserve. All this talk of forgiveness leads to my real goal, given the season - Thanks. When we rid ourselves of our sense of entitlement, and pride, we allow ourselves a clear picture of what we're owed so that we can forgive, and what we have been given so that we can be thankful. Tonight at dinner I began mulling this concept when we all went around a table and stated what we were thankful for... I knew my answer was truly everything, but had no idea how to condense it into a sound byte... so here I am, correcting my earlier clumsiness. When I realize that I am owed nothing, that I exist for the purpose of expressing Christ, that come better or worse, I serve a good God... then I can be thankful.
I'm about to get a little sappy, I apologize. Skip a paragraph if you'd like - the next one will be back on task. I thank God for the people he has put in my life and I thank them for their grace, mercy, and strength. I have a dear group of friends that cares about me, puts up with me, and grows me for no other reason than it is at the core of their existence to. I have dear parents who would (and probably have) sacrificed anything that needed to be sacrificed for me. I have a life that anyone who wasn't self-absorbed would dream of, and sometimes I take it absolutely for granted - I care about you guys, and I am unbelievably thankful that you care about me too.
When we realize how little we've earned and how much we've been given... When we see the world as it really is, and see the people who care about us as they really are... When we see how much fortune has affected the good things in us as opposed to our own self gratifying greatness... suddenly the world changes. Suddenly we become powerful - because we are greater than the sins committed against us. We aren't victims any more, we aren't helpless any more, we aren't beggars any more. We give freely, and in that have power because our hand is never forced. Be truly forgiving this year. Be truly gracious. Be truly merciful. And, as the season so often reminds us, be truly thankful.