Seething and Sunburned
When I arrived at work on Tuesday, I found the grass at church unacceptably long. In the front of church it was bad. In the back of church it was terrible. Our lawn was over a foot high. The grass had gone to seed. And because we pay people to cut it, I was annoyed. No, actually, I was angry. And so, I grabbed my phone and called our landscape crew. When they didn't answer, I sent a text:
I need you to cut the grass. Get to St. John ASAP. When you arrive, find me. I’ll be the guy on the tractor doing your job.
After launching my text missile, I patted myself on the back, hopped on the John Deere and started mowing. As I mowed, I seethed. I’ll show them, I thought to myself. And like a self-made martyr I carried out my task hoping my sacrifice would bring guilt-inspired change. I hope they feel terrible that I’m out here doing this!
I expected relief to come in about an hour. They’ll get my text and rush over, I said. They didn’t. In fact, help didn’t arrive until the end of the day. By then, I had mowed the whole property. My back was sore, my neck ached, I was dehydrated, and, more than anything else, I was extremely sunburned. The landscape crew rolled in with beaming smiles. “Thanks,” they exclaimed. “You’re welcome,” I muttered in reply.
I spent the day trying to make a point and punish someone else. The only person I punished was myself. The only point I made was that being rash may at times lead to a rash. My anger turned to regret. My frustration with others turned to frustration with myself.
In scripture God continuously calls to his people with the invitation to let go and forgive. God invites us to offer one another fresh starts and new beginnings. We are called not just to forgive sin, but also to forget sin (which takes things to a whole other level). We are called to be patient, to bear one another’s burdens, to live together in unity, and to love.
Often times we think that forgiveness is for the sake of the other (and surely it is!), but I also believe that it is for us. I’ve heard it said that not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. When people hurt us, we hold onto it, and only end up hurting ourselves even more. We become our own worst enemy. God invites us into patterns of living that are shaped by hospitality, grace, love, and patience so that we might break the patterns that destroy and start to be a blessing to this world – and also, a blessing to ourselves.
I don’t know whose sins you’re holding onto, but I seriously doubt you’re hurting them. I don’t know what text missiles you’ve sent lately, but I seriously doubt they’ve had the affect you wanted. I don’t know what cause you’ve martyred yourself for, but I seriously doubt it will rally the world to your side.
Today, instead of being quick to anger, let us be full of mercy. Instead of rushing into judgment, let us rush towards reconciliation. Instead of launching more missiles, let us launch more love. And in doing so, may we find the pattern of our lives be both a blessing to the world and to ourselves.
In the Way,