“Don’t let the age of this book fool you,” the wise woman said. “Check out page 39.”
I curled my fingers around the tattered copy of Catherine Marshall’s, Something More, completely unimpressed. But I hate awkward moments, so I pretended not to notice the yellow, out-dated pages and took it. If nothing else, I could relate to it’s worn-out cover and tattered pages. “Thanks,” I said, and tucked it in my purse, planning to just keep it long enough so she would forget she’d given to me.
The past month had been rough, leaving me feeling more like a beat up, old book, than the mom I wanted to be. As I looked at my actions, I wasn’t impressed:
- Impatience with the kids
- Annoyance with every little snag in my day
- Focused on the negative, unable see the positive
The wise women (a.k.a. my mom) saw through my actions and realized I was suffering from a case of needing to forgive. While I didn’t realize I needed to forgive, and didn’t feel like forgiving, I turned to page 39 in Marshall’s book and read:
“(To forgive) can be a simple prayer like, “Lord I release_____ from my judgment.”
It seemed too easy, but I did know that forgiveness was my only way out of the emotional-stew of bad behavior. The trouble was that I didn’t have the energy to feel it, to bring the required oomph this kind of forgiveness would require.
So, with just a sliver of hope, I took a breath and read the prayer filling in the blank.
And then felt nothing. Zip. Nada. No watershed moment. No holy-healing, hands-in-the-air hallelujah. Just me, still sitting there awkwardly in the car, still just as worn out as the book in my hand. Unsure of what to do next, and sure that I’d been at this stop sign for far too long–even in a small town–I turned the next yellowed page. Three words stopped me short, “a non-emotional release.”
Non-emotional. That was exactly how I felt. I didn’t feel forgiving, and it would take days for me to notice the change, but in meekly forcing that thought through my head, in just saying the words, something had shifted. I was no longer in charge of this person’s accountability. I felt light, like my muscles could move, finally out from under the boat-load of resentment I’d been heaping on week after week.
I am ridiculously capable of building my own prison. God’s gift of forgiveness is like a key. He keeps the original, but has gone to the hardware store to make us a duplicate, ensuring we’re never left out in the cold. He first forgives us, then gives us the grace to forgive even when we don’t feel forgiving, His spirit loosening hinges we didn’t realize were rusted tight.
And it doesn’t make sense. God’s peace beyond understanding, for the millionth time, restores my soul, and I’m left with gratitude, like a fresh new book, pages crisp, ready to be turned once again for the first time.
Psalm 23:1-3 He restores my soul
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.