Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Christ is forgiveness

No, there's nothing we can find to picture this, nothing we can photograph or paint or draw or write poems and songs about, nothing we can fully describe, not even in the deepest and most heartfelt testimony. Still, we try.

One autumn day driving home from work, my heart crushed with sorrow over a broken friendship, I hadn't brought it to mind so intensely before, my soul's lamp was nearly extinguished, and I was very close to weeping, so sorry was I about it all.

And about my life, what a complete disaster, what a catalog of catastrophes and bad judgments, of failure to act when I should have, and of acting when I should have not, speaking up when I should have been silent, being silent when I ought to have shouted.

The thought of my mentor, 32 years my senior, telling me of the misfortunes that not just tainted his life, but ruined it, his reputation, his personal wealth, his family, all affected, and by things outside his control, a pious man whom others judged helpless.

Yes, ‘the victory, the victory is in the Blood.’ He used to tell me, while recounting, almost without intending to, and not complaining or blaming anyone except himself, how his life had turned out. Philip, the pentecostal, unwelcome in his own church.

I didn't see him do it, he would never have let me, but he told me how sometimes he would drive home crying, knowing how he had failed the Lord, failed himself, his son, his wife and daughters, all of whom he loved so much, even though he gave them all he had in him.

As I was close to tears, driving home, feeling sorry for my own failures, my own sins, wishing they could be lifted from me, I thought of him, and his life far worse than mine, and how he never ceased asking the Lord for forgiveness, even knowing it was granted.

I was on the point of crying, but something made me look up. Of course I was watching the road as any driver does, almost in a dream, reaching a destination without remembering the driving. I looked up. In front of me was an SUV with a wide, white sticker on the hatch.

In bold black letters on white, In Christ is forgiveness. That's all it said. There were almost no other stickers on that car, except for one of those crossed stoles that I first remember seeing years ago when they were pink and had something to do with AIDS victims.

Just four words plainly printed, black on white, In Christ is forgiveness. Something we all know, something I believe, yet to see it there on the car right in front of me was like Jesus Himself entering my inner conversation, overturning the sentence against me.

I noticed the license plate as well, 669 ZKR, the three letter root of the Hebrew word for ‘remember,’ zayin, kaf, resh, remember. When I came home I checked to see if there was a 69th verse in Zechariah chapter 6, but there wasn't. Numbers haunt me.

Nothing this side of heaven will ever heal some of our wounds, broken friendships, lost loves, missing children, childhood traumas, compromised marriage beds, untimely deaths. I feel I cannot live, sometimes, knowing what I have done wrong in my life, and I beg for mercy.

Sometimes with words, sometimes with deeds, sometimes by prayer, or reading the psalms, my usual comfort, that mercy comes to me, quiets the grief of my soul, opens my eyes to again see light where I thought all was blackness and idiocy. For that, I thank the Lord.

He knows. He knows us. He knows all about us. He knows what we are, why we are, what we have done or not done, and why. He has been through it with us all millions of times, walking beside us to steady our steps and keep us from falling into the pit where praise is no more.

Forgive your brother who has offended you seven times? ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,’ says Jesus (Matthew 18:22), who has forgiven and keeps forgiving us seven times to the infinite power, from before time was, until the Day He comes.

Yes, Lord, as we pray on the 19th day, ‘…at the presence of Yahweh, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth, to judge the world with justice and the nations with His truth’ (Psalm 96), we await Your grace and mercy, now in the time of this mortal life.

Grant it to us, Lord and God, who in Christ suffers all, walks in all, healing us of our diseases, giving us sight, and speech, raising us up to walk where our infirmities prevent us. Yes, Lord, grant us Your grace and mercy, for in Christ is forgiveness.

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