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I recently wrote about our family’s trip to the state fair: A car – which had been left in neutral – had coasted through the parking lot, barely missing my husband and other pedestrians as it reached its destination: crashing into a parked car. The “unattended car” rolling in neutral to whatever destination the slope led reminded me of many “unattended lives” who coast along in neutral, letting external circumstances determine their destination: a crash. (See that post, Unattended Vehicles, here.)
What if instead we put our PRNDL to “drive” – to reach our highest potential for God’s glory?! Purposefully tending to our lives (with God’s will) is the only way to fight our natural tendencies of decline.
When thinking of self-attending, we most likely think of the “eat right and exercise” driving that may avoid a health crash. Or maybe we think of driving the budget to avoid the slide toward excessive debt and bankruptcy. The media will often drive “unattended lives” down their slippery sin-sucking slope toward alcohol, infidelity or pornography among the rest. If we don’t attend to our children, the culture around us will gladly pull them. Although the list of driving needs is endless: diet, budget, media, parenting, etc, I have recently come to admire the “skillful driving” that some Christians do in the area of
It is strange to think of someone driving forgiveness, but at the same time, unless purposefully attended, forgiveness will be lacking and lead to a major crash every time. A natural tendency to being wronged is taking offense, holding the offense, and even wanting revenge for the offense- THAT is the slope of the world in which we live. Lying awake all night unattended, the emotions drive the will of their possessor and result in bitterness, anger, negativity, broken relationships, physical problems and even rage. I have massive regret when I think of the glory robbed from God every day that I have lacked forgiveness toward someone else.
One author says forgiveness is: never repeating the offense again – to the person it involves or anyone else. Telling the story or thinking the story only gives the emotions new birth in their old state, removing the benefits of forgiveness altogether. Best selling author, Orrin Woodward once said, “To forgive doesn’t mean we think the snake will never bite again. It means we don’t have a desire to hurt the snake.” We pity the snake. We want to help the snake to become a new creature in Christ. I have often had to force myself to forgive someone who is at the same time holding an incredible grudge against me! But didn’t Christ already show me that it is possible through His own death, when He prayed about his killers, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”?
Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book, Life in Christ, says that when our pride is in order, no one can insult us. “Whatever the world may say about me, when I know myself, I know that they do not know the truth about me – it is much worse than they think. When we see ourselves in the light of this glorious gospel, no one can hurt us, no one can offend us.”
I truly believe that the condition of my heart – not the size of the offense – determines the level of difficulty in forgiving the offender. In essence, if my heart recognizes that I have needed forgiveness in the past, I am more likely to give forgiveness today. If my heart is full of pride as though, “I have never needed forgiveness;” “I am holier than they that offended,” or “I would never have done that,” then I am more likely to take great offense at the action and have more difficulty forgiving. In other words I hold myself in a prison, while limiting the freedom of those around me. It is best said as the old saying: “Not forgiving is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Those who forgive not only give themselves the gift of freedom from the past, but they bless everyone they meet with the same feeling of freedom.
My 13-year-old son recently read The Hiding Place, a book which details Corrie ten Boom’s time in a
concentration camp during WWII. (I highly recommend listening to an audio recording Ms. Ten Boom made a few years before her death. Just hearing her voice again this week brought tears to me, knowing the impact she had on my life when I first heard her on a recording a couple of decades ago. My 13-yr-old and I listened on the way home from soccer, and sat in the driveway to finish it, because he didn’t want to turn it off. Download the MP3, or order the CD, “The Greatest of These is Love” Here. Although the audio recording is appropriate for all ages, the book shares details that may be best for older adolescents.)
Caught in the act of hiding Jews, Ms. Ten Boom’s father, sister and she were taken away to a hell on earth at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp that took the lives of both her father and her sister, while daily threatening her own. Mistreated, starved, and witness to unfathomable atrocities, she somehow was released days before the rest of her camp was marched into gas chambers to their death. I cannot imagine the bitterness that must have crept into her skin, thinking of the good she was trying to do for the Jewish people out of love, and the punishment she endured. I cannot conceive the haunting dreams that must have stolen her nights. How must she have ached in mourning over the loss of her family, due to those purposeful acts of evil?
Somehow though, she was able to stay in the “driver’s” seat and “attend her life” anyway.
She steered her life with the Word of God, as she miraculously snuck a Bible into the concentration camp, though she was stripped naked and was watched by armed and vicious guards. (Would I have risked so much? Would I have even wanted the Bible enough to even try that?)
She accelerated her days against the negative slope with gratitude. At one point, she and her sister, Betsy, thanked God for the lice! Yes lice! Because they kept the guards from entering her sleeping quarters, and allowed them to study God’s Word together. (Am I as grateful even out of such grave circumstances?)
She shifted into higher gears by serving others. Instead of wallowing alone, or even just praying alone, she invited other prisoners to study with her, sharing her Bible – page by worn out page. (Do I have such a habit? – serving others instead of just meeting the needs of my family and me?)
She stayed on the right road, when she pitied the abusive guards and their lack of relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She focused on where she was headed, not where the slope of the world wanted to take her. With her eyes on Jesus, she could follow His example of “forgiving those who know not what they do.”
She didn’t focus inward on the downward slope of self.
She chose to heal.
She drove to forgive.
She glorified the God who attended to her all along.
Then she did even more. She recognized the “unattended lives” in the post-war community – even including the concentration camp guards themselves. She didn’t watch them ride downhill to their destined crash, but began telling them about the Word of God, the salvation in Jesus Christ, and how and why she was able to forgive. She famously was approached by one of the very guards from the concentration camp that took her father and sister. Even though years had passed, you can imagine her hesitant feelings when she saw him. Did it bring back horror and begin nightmares again? Did her eyes lock with his and cause trauma deep in her heart? Did she think of the force with which he struck, or recall the harshness of his words? Did bitterness surface at the memory of him with a full belly while surrounding prisoners went weeks without food, and were severely punished or killed if they took even a bite of the potatoes they were forced to pick? After she thought she had forgiven, did emotions resurface when she was face to face with the offender?
Anguish over her sister’s and father’s deaths in that camp must have wrenched her insides to want to run… or shout… or hurt!
…but she dropped her emotions and embraced that very man, as he embraced the Christ she represented.
“In that moment,” she later wrote, “something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.”
She proved the Father’s forgiveness of sins when she looked beyond this stranger’s sins and was able to forgive.
Oh, to attend a life so well!
Corrie ten Boom would not have had a testimony, if at the beginning of the story, her “car” had been in neutral. She would have followed a country’s leader, coasting on the pavement of his plans for evil, riding to whatever crash they led. She also would not have had a testimony if after all of the atrocities, she had “parked” in the prison of bitterness.
Her “attended life” before I was even born influenced my own to make sure I am
– Steering with the Word of God
– Accelerating with gratitude, culling surroundings for even the tiniest of blessings
– Shifting into higher gears by serving others
– Staying on the right road and pitying those who are not
– Keeping my eye on the destination: in Christ Jesus.
We can drive forward, my dear friend!
A scar is not all bad; it shows that a once open wound is now healed.
Romans 5:5: And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Micah 7:18-19: Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
- Corrie ten Boom’s story in her own words: “The Greatest of These is Love” Here.