Checking out forgiveness

Whenever I make a big shopping trip for our ministry, I expect the comments. “Wow, something special is going on.” “My goodness, that’s a lot of stuff.” “Looks interesting- what are you working on?”

“Oh, it’s not for me”, I explain. “It’s for our children’s ministry at church.” And then, 99% of the time, I get this question: “What church do you go to?”

When I tell them where I go to church, I never know how they are going to respond. Sometimes they tell me where they attend church. Sometimes they tell me they are looking for a church to attend. And sometimes they tell me they used to go to church.

On this past shopping trip, I met a cashier at the check out lane who fit the latter description – except it apparently hit a nerve and he had to tell me where he used to go to church and why he left – and is never going back – ever – and he means it.

His feelings had been hurt the last time he went to that church and he told me all about it. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and that was probably a good thing. Because if I had spoken, I would have said something useless.

My first thoughts were to defend the church ( and there were good reasons ) but I sensed I should be quiet for a few minutes while he finished and let the Lord teach me something in the process.

What happened next surprised me. The words that came out of my mouth weren’t my own. “You’re carrying a heavy burden that you weren’t meant to carry”, I said.

His anger softened and tears started to well up in his eyes (and then my eyes welled up because I’m a copy-cat crier). The two of us just stood there and looked uncomfortably at each other. I glanced at his nametag. “Mike”, I said, “Jesus says His burden is light”. “You’ve put a burden of anger and unforgiveness on your own shoulders and Jesus would like to help you get rid of that and carry something lighter and full of life.”

Churches are full of people and sometimes people hurt other people and we are surprised when that happens. Flawed humans hanging out with other flawed humans and expecting perfection. It happens.

The problem is, when we get wounded or hurt by someone, we tend to take our eyes off of Jesus and look at our injuries. We fuss and fiddle with our bandages, trying to take the pain away.

We take a “do-it-yourself” attitude and try “at-home” remedies. But, when we take our eyes off of the divine healer, we miss the opportunity to start the healing process.

The healing process requires us to surrender to the healer so we have to be willing to follow His directions. Sometimes healing is uncomfortable and sometimes it is downright painful, but rarely is it quick. And my goodness, pulling off those protective bandages we’ve put on ourselves makes us want to scream.

Exposing that protected wound is important, though. Jesus already knows how bad it is. The exposing is for our own acknowledgment. Out-of-sight/out-of-mind is not a good healing protocol because the wound just sits and festers.

The healing balm of forgiveness doesn’t feel comfortable at first. It touches those tender spots that might make us wince and squirm. But, I am convinced that totally trusting the Divine Healer, surrendering our vain attempts to heal ourselves, and patiently going through the healing process will bring life-changing results.

Will the process you go through to heal somehow change the person who hurt you? It might. It might not. But that’s for the Divine Healer (who is also the Divine Judge) to take care of – not us. We’re busy trusting, surrendering, and healing, remember?

As I left the store that day, I encouraged the cashier to focus on Jesus (a relationship) and not on a church (a religion). Jesus is perfect but churches full of human beings are not. I’ve been praying and asking God to strengthen my new friend, Mike, through his journey of healing and I look forward to running into him to find out how he looks carrying something lighter.