Yesterday on the way to work, I felt annoyed by people. This is nothing new. Driving through downtown at lunchtime is always an interesting experience. As I was secretly loathing the lady with the big hair who I had been trailing well below the speed limit for the last 2 miles, God decided to strike up a conversation with me. I suppose it was as good a time as any... I certainly wasn't going anywhere fast.
He brought up the habit I have of racking up the offenses of my life. When will I ever have “enough” recompense to satisfy all the wrongs done to me? He followed up by reminding me that vengeance is His, it's His to repay. I was suddenly overtaken with a solemn feeling... I've heard this whole line of reasoning before, but this time, it had teeth. I felt the sting as the words sank deep. Am I one of those people... all bitter & curmudgeony? Could this be why I often feel so angry with the world around me? And what of all my sins? Are they canceled because of all the wrongs done to me? Are they rendered null & void b/c someone owes me? No... But I often live as if that's the case. What justification do I have to hold onto hurt & offense or to believe that my sin can be overlooked because I must live with deficits inflicted by others? My offendedness has always been the card up my sleeve, the leverage point... the thing that makes my badness “ok”. But I'm starting to see things differently.
As a Protestant, I heard the forgiveness message more times than I can count. I know the “forgive & you will be forgiven” scriptures. I know the parables about what happened to people who didn't forgive... I thought I'd forgiven quite thoroughly. But my gut is rank & what I've been doing is the equivalent of shoving antacid down my gullet to stave off the truth. I need to change the way I “eat”. I may eat lots of good things, but it only takes one serving of offense to sour the whole “stomach”.
I've begun to wonder if being a Catholic has somehow changed my understanding of forgiveness. We of course didn't have the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Assemblies... we simply said our prayers to God in private. Sometimes a preacher would call people up to the stage & he/she would encourage those gathered to speak out the name of the offender(s) or offense(s) to be forgiven. But no one was really listening... that is, it was nothing like sitting down with a priest. Specially trained lay ministers would work the crowd, make their way to those weeping, hand out tissues & pray soothing words, read scripture, rub backs & hold trembling hands... Of course, we were told forgiveness isn't a feeling... but the emotional folks always seemed to “score more points” with the ministers. I was one of those frustratingly un-emotional folks when it came to those kinds of altar calls. I said the right words & always assumed I had done what I could, but I never felt much different. I think the Sacrament of Reconciliation has played a significant role in opening my eyes to what forgiveness actually means...