Here’s one of my favourite stories. The novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Una is sick and is expected to die that night. He paces near her bed as her fever climbs, and she grows weaker and weaker. She is the brightest, his dearest child, who most resembles him. She CANNOT die.
In the middle of the night, he says to himself, “Why should I doubt the goodness of God?” He relaxes. He breathes deeply. He leaves Una and her fate in the hands of a good God.
And goes to sleep.
His wife Sophia related that at that moment Una’s fever began to subside. She recovered.
Why should I doubt the goodness of God? Hawthorne asked
And why should I doubt the justice of God? I ask.
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I’ve waged a spiritual battle this year, with an opponent who like Antaeus no sooner hit the ground than he rose again, invigorated!
It was the battle of forgiveness. Against someone who destroyed an important friendship to me by misrepresentation, slander and lies. Who with similar lies damaged– and then took over!!– a ministry I was involved in, and was gifted in. (I don’t mean to dramatize things; I have been a Christian for 21 years, and these petty intrigues and scrabbles for small prizes are par for the course. Because Christians are in the already/ not yet stages of becoming a New Creation).
And I need to let it go. And I have done so. Many times. And then the sense of injured pride comes back. And outrage–because, again as happens among Christians, the person involved greets everyone with an outsized smile, and is considered a good Christian. I know this person lied about me, as they do–but no one else really does. And it would take too much emotional energy, and would be beneath me to tell.
So that’s the hardest part of letting things go. That no one will know about these behind-the-scenes manoeuvring and slander and lies. Except me and the individual involved.
* * *
Jesus tells us that one day, everything hidden will be revealed, and what we have whispered in secret will be shouted from the rooftops.
With today’s internet culture, more and more people are “outed” in this life-time.
But of course, we all bank on it being much later. If not, who would lie to or slander another?
So that is what I need to do: Just leave things to the justice of God. And leave it to him when what is hidden shall be revealed. In this act, or the last act.
(That it might be in this act would not surprise me. Jung, in Memories, Dreams and Reflections, talks about the weight of hidden guilt, that eventually drives people–and even animals–from the one who has a guilty conscience and lives in fear of discovery or “outing”.)
That everyone sows what they reap is a law of life. It is an inexorable law of life. That is why one need never doubt the justice of God. Some people, like the pastors caught out in sexual or financial wrong-doing reap what they have sown in mortifying ways right here.
But others do bear the burden of not being what they seem, of being afraid of being caught out, of the slow and secret corruption of the character which sin brings, of being cut off from the joy and peace of God, and the overflow of the Holy Spirit because of their sin.
As Hawthorne shows in his brilliant The Scarlet Letter, secret sin is also a burden. You know you are not what people think you are. So you are condemned to act a role, pretending, pretending, always in fear, “honouring God with your lips, while your heart is far from Him.” WHAT a waste of a life!
* * *
The Alpha and the Omega. The word which was from the beginning and will be in the end. Will alone endure in the end. The words of Jesus. When I let Jesus have the last word in any of the mental essays I write, or the mental debates I have with myself, I feel more convinced that I might be on the right track.
However, early this year, I became convinced that cutting the chains of “You Owe Me,” and “I want to see Justice Done” that bound me to these people, (and there were 3 involved because of course seeds of bitterness defile many.(Heb 12:15)) was of crucial importance to my own creativity.
What Jesus says wrings the soul. It gets you. It is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) Not a very comfortable sword, that one.
* * *
Look at the extreme words he speaks on dealing with enemies.
Love your enemies
, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)
It’s almost the only way out of the maze, isn’t it? And it hurts like hell. Doing good to the undeserving. Blessing those you wish you ill. Praying for blessing for those who have injured you.
It just smacks of the nature of God, doesn’t it? Who cannot help but do good. Cannot help but bless. Cannot help but pour goodness because He IS goodness. As Jesus says, If we do these things, our reward will be great, and we will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. True sons, in the Father’s house, partaking of the abundance of his household, drinking from his streams of rejoicing, not prodigal sons, who sons though they may be, are eating the food of pigs and are hungry and thirsty through their own bad choices.
* * *
When forgiveness seems like the other side of a bank, and between you and total forgiveness rushes the river of anger and the craving for justice here, there are bridges.
One is just this. Force yourself to do good to the enemy. Pray for blessing for those who hate you. If your heart cannot just stretch to asking for full abundant blessing for your enemies (and to be honest, I haven’t reached there) then ask, as I do, that they may be spiritually blessed and do great things for Christ’s Kingdom, that most dear, invisible place.
And maybe as one’s heart changes, one can pray more generously.
* * *
What I need to forgive is GRACE. Grace to provide a bridge between my wounded heart and the other side of the river which is the land of full, generous forgiveness, which is how God forgives us, because that is his nature. He cannot help but do it.
Grace, honey to heal the wounded heart. Grace to get us across the river of the things we cannot do in our own strength.
The Cross provided a bridge between God and man. And we need the power of the Cross, the Holy Spirit, and massive grace to provide a bridge from where we stand shivering in our limitedness and the land of joy and abundance where one forgives one’s enemies, and is forgiven by an immense God.
You forgive me fully and easily, God. Give me that magnanimous spirit to forgive those who have injured me. For my own sake. And yours.
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