Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Scars. . .
Those are the easy scars. The hard ones you cannot see. They are the memories I wish to forget but continue to remember year in and year out. Most of them are the scars of one kind of defeat or another. I spoke when I should have remained silent or I was silent when I should have spoken. In any case, these scars are both personal and professional, that is, some merely to or from me as a person and others to or from me as a Pastor. There are people I should have visited but did not for whatever reason and then could not ever. There are arguments that should not have taken place and that lead to words that should not have been spoken. And there are arguments that should have happened but I wimped out and walked away with my tail between my legs.
The hard scars of life are often unseen by those who look at us. But that does not mean they are not there. People often presume that Pastors and their families lead charmed lives, that we never have personal or family problems like other folks do. How wrong they are! I do not know a Pastor and his family that do not bear the burdens of the Pastoral Office in some form of scar tissue or another. I also know of too many Pastors and their families who suffered in silence rather than allow their wounds to show before the people in the pews. Whether they should have or not, they feared exposing themselves and their failures to the folks who either chose or wanted to believe that Pastors are nearly perfect.
The hardest scars are not the angry words and unfair criticisms directed to either me or my family. The hardest scars I wear are the countless times I have let down myself and those whom I care about. When my no ended up yes and my yes ended up no and I was wounded even more than those who said "That's okay, Pastor.... That's okay, dear... That's okay, Dad..."
Forgive and forget... right? It is easier said than done. The forgiving part comes only with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Here God has blessed me with an easier time of this than most. I have not found it as difficult as some to forgive but the forgetting, well, that has always been hard. I seem genetically designed to forgive others and to struggle to forgive myself. I can forget what people have said and done to wound me but I cannot forget what I have said and done to wound others. That is one the great eye-opening perspectives of Sunday morning -- each week I look into the faces of people I have failed and who have forgiven me as has the Lord. Remembering those sins is not the rekindling of my guilt but the voice of the Spirit telling me where I should not go.
After Easter Jesus shows His scars to Thomas. Put you hand here and your finger there... He insists. I wonder if these scars are things we are meant to carry. Forgiveness is good and great and the richest of treasures from the grace of God in Christ but remembering the wrongs we have thought, said, and done can also be helpful. This kind of scar is not meant to be hidden. Our defeats help us understand our weakness and therefore God's strength. Our failures magnify not only our guilt but also the grace of God. Our memories are meant not to make us wallow in self-pity or guilt but to help us when we find ourselves in the same places again (as inevitably we will, creatures of habit as we are).
Some hope that Christ is not only the source of forgiveness and healing but a plastic surgeon who removes not only our sins and their guilt but the memory of the wrongs we have thought, said, and done. I have learned that our Lord is no plastic surgeon. To the woman caught in adultery our Lord offers no condemnation (greater than what she has borne to that point) but with the absolution comes the call to sin no more (not some generic call to be holy, I believe, but the specific call to recall what led her to that point, to remember what happened when grace came to her rescue, and to let that memory point her to the great divergent paths between desires and holiness, wants and goodness, lies and truth, life and death.
I hope you do not get me wrong here. I am not at all suggesting that we sinners take back our sins from the cross, that we wallow in self-pity and guilt, or that we should be driven by the tortured memory of past wrongs. No, not at all. What I am saying is that the path to right always begin with the choice of the wrong. Remembering our sins (not the sins of others against us) is not diminishing our Lord's forgiveness but magnifying that forgiveness. It is a teaching moment of the Holy Spirit. We all have scars. Most of them unseen and unknown to the folks around us. Forgiveness is the gift beyond our ability to purchase or earn but remembering the forgiven wrong can also be a gift and blessing of the Spirit. It is the "go and sin no more" part of the Lord's Word that sometimes we want to shake off but should not. Grace does not make us naive or forgetful but wise unto salvation.
Remember, O man, that thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return. . .