A Picture of Forgiveness

 

page15colorHe was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7a

Walking barefoot through my bedroom, my foot touched on a wet spot and I reacted quickly in anger toward Sheba.  There she was, as usual, staring up at me with those big, beautiful, innocent-looking brown eyes—but this was no time for me to be forgiving or nice!  I grabbed her and sternly put her outside and closed the door, paying no attention to the confused, “what-did-I-do?” look on her face.  I yelled too—even though she was completely deaf at this stage in her life and couldn’t hear a word I said, I was sure she got the message.

Next, I hurried to grab some towels and dry up the spot on the carpet.  Wait—this spot wasn’t yellow—it didn’t have a bad odor—in fact it smelled nice—what was going on?  Further investigation revealed that a few moments before I had carried a plastic container of wet cleaning wipes through the bedroom—the lid was loose, and some of the scented water sloshed out on the floor.

So, did I feel bad, or what?  I immediately let Sheba back inside, held her and petted her, and apologized profusely (you’d think she could hear me).  And she was so happy to see me—immediately right back at my feet—her curly little pug-tail wriggling with delight—her beautiful big brown eyes sparkling with joy—no grudges or resentment—just pure, unadulterated love; as always.

God is like Sheba—we may hurt him, we may accuse him unjustly; we may shut him out; but when we re-open the door to our life there he is, happily waiting to come back inside, not holding the slightest grudge, for “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

By God’s Design

 

coverpagecolorFor you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

Pugs have very short airways that result in unusual, and often annoying, breathing patterns.  Typical of her breed, Sheba snores, snorts, sneezes and wheezes; and she does so regardless of where she is or who she’s with—no manners at all! This is just who she is—it’s how God designed her and, in loving her unconditionally, all of those otherwise unattractive qualities become the very things that make her even more special.

Each of us also has qualities that are potentially offensive to others. Perhaps it’s a physical characteristic or mannerism, a personality quirk, or a unique way of thinking or acting—things that have been hard-wired into our DNA by God, things that endear us to our master.

So I ask myself, “How often have I made judgments about people just because I didn’t like some little thing about them? How many divine encounters have I overlooked? How many friendships have I missed? Why don’t I accept and love people as they are, without thinking about how much nicer, or more attractive or pleasant they’d be if they would just do things my way?”

Just as I would never try to make Sheba stop snoring/snorting/sneezing/wheezing, I cannot make others conform to the image of what I think they should be. That’s God’s job! Perhaps those irritating quirks are as essential to their being as my dog’s noisy breathing is to her survival.

My responsibility is to love people unconditionally, just as Jesus loves me. After all, as I’m taught in Psalm 139, “he created my inmost being…[he] knit me together in my mother’s womb…[and] I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

A Price Was Paid

Sheba joined our family when our son, Kevin, was thirteen.  He contributed half of the money to buy her and, for him,  it was a very high price—it was all he had.  The deal was that Kevin would take care of Sheba but, as often seems to  happen, he mostly just played with her and Mom (that would be me) did all the work.  Then Kevin grew up—went off to college, graduated, moved into an apartment, got a job—and there was no room for Sheba, so she stayed at home.  Oh, Kevin still loved her—called her his dog, played with her when he came home; but one day he told me that Sheba loved me more than she did him—yes, she was always glad to see him, but she followed me around constantly, seldom letting me out of her sight.  Why is that?  It’s because Sheba was now my dog—Kevin never paid the full price for her but I did.  I met all of her needs—I fed her, bathed her, walked her, took her to the vet, scratched her favorite spots, played with her—I was always there for her—every day—and Kevin wasn’t.

To whom do I belong?  To my husband?  To my son?  To my parents?  To my extended family?  To my friends?  Each has paid a high price for me in terms of time, money, self-sacrifice, love; each has given all they know how to give—all they can afford.  And each one shares a part of me, just as Kevin shared a part of Sheba.  But I belong wholly to the only person who supplies all of my needs; the only one who loves me unconditionally, who never fails me; I belong to God.  Heart and soul, mind and body, in work or play or worship, in joy or in pain—in total, I belong to God because he is the only one who has paid the full price of ownership—on the cross—and he can be counted on to be there every time I call on him.  Now and forever; loving and accepting; always with me; always patient and kind when I stumble and fall and make mistakes.

Like Sheba constantly keeping me in her line of sight, I must always focus my vision on God.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t love and appreciate all of the others in my life—my husband, son, grandson, parents, family, and friends—but none of them, alone or in unison, can do what God has done all by himself because;

…when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”  (Hebrews 10:12)

 You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)