Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)
TITLE: Three Steps of Forgiveness
By Arlene Showalter
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I shrank from that gentle voice. “Good morning.” Why’d he show up now?
“I notice you’re reading Psalms this morning. Any particular reason why?”
“I….” I glanced down at the words before me, ‘O LORD, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me’ (Psalm 3:1), and sighed. “I need some special encouragement today.”
“Why?” God asked.
“My enemies overwhelm me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. How?”
“I tried so hard to be a perfect foster parent,” I said, “but government regulations frustrated us at every turn.”
“How?” God asked.
“We weren’t allowed to spank the kids,” I said, “even your word tells us spanking is ok.”
“So what happened?”
“The kids knew the rules even better than we did. They got into our faces, taunting and pushing us.”
“I lost it one day,” I mumbled, “and slapped one.”
“So the agency took them away.”
“Yes,” I said, smacking my Bible closed. “They had no right. We loved those kids, but it was impossible to discipline with all the rules. They hurt those kids far worse than a slap.” Anger boiled up and over. “We were raising them with biblical principles. They maintain foster kids have the ‘right’ to pornographic material, but we’re not allowed to administer corporal punishment. It’s not fair!”
“Quite a dilemma.” He paused. “So, can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
“You?” I gasped. “You’re God. You’re perfect. I don’t blame you.”
“Don’t you?” God’s gentle tone pierced my heart. “Haven’t you wondered why I didn’t intervene before everything got out of hand?”
I hung my head, ashamed, exposed. “I repent, Father. Please forgive me.”
“Accepted,” God replied. “And thank you for forgiving me. Now, how about the Children’s Services?”
“They even investigated us,” I sobbed. “Imagine the embarrassment of it all.”
“Some of my best servants were unfairly humiliated,” God said. “Hosea, Isaiah, and Ezekiel to name a few.”
“But, they were holy men,” I protested, “prophets.”
“They were human, like you.”
“When I allow my servants to be humiliated,” God explained, “it’s because I have a higher purpose in the works than what one can see.”
“If only the government kept its nose out of it,” I said, “we’d have succeeded and the kids would be in a good, Christian home.”
“Can you forgive Children’s Services?” God repeated.
“Why should I?” I cried.
“Because I demand it,” God said. “If you refuse to forgive those who wronged you, I will withhold my own forgiveness. Do you really want to go there?”
“No,” I whimpered. “I’ll forgive them.”
“I feel better already,” I said. “My heart feels freer, lighter.”
“Thank you, God.”
“Now, are you ready to forgive yourself?”
My world stopped.
“I wanted to raise those kids to be servants for you,” I said, “but I messed up.”
“I don’t see it that way,” God said. “You have to trust, even when you don’t understand.”
“I failed. I should have been more patient. I should have prayed harder.”
“You need to forgive yourself.”
“I can’t.” I bowed my head over my Bible. “It’s my fault those kids went back into the system,” I wailed. “I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Did my son, Jesus, give up his life for you?” God asked.
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Then, if you refuse to forgive yourself, a person Jesus died for, you negate the value of his blood.”
“No!” I gasped.
“Yes.” God’s voice remained calm, but firm.
I went to the kitchen to brew a cup of peppermint tea, to calm my nerves. I moved to the patio and listened to the mockingbird tweeting and twittering its neighbors’ songs. I returned to my chair and picked up my Bible.
“God, how can you ask this of me?”
I tried to calm myself with the Lord’s Prayer. Then the verses beyond it jumped out at me. “If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failures (Matthew 6:14, 15).”
Tears ran down my face as understanding dawned. “I’m part of the ‘others’. I see that now. Forgiveness isn’t an option, it’s a command.” I read the verses again. “How can I find the strength to forgive myself?”
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