This week was emotionally demanding. Sick kids, surgery of a loved one, waiting to hear about a job application and a car that decided to not work, then work, then not work again.
One day in particular, my youngest had a high fever, had maxed out the cling-o-meter and was weak and teary. I was not far off. I decided not to drive to the pharmacy since there was vomiting in the mix as well, and asked them to deliver some pain medication.
A couple of hours later I was still waiting and he was getting weak and his little two-year old body scalding to the touch. A quick call to the pharmacy to check how long they would be, placed me on the line with a man who (with hindsight) was clearly busy. I immediately felt the rage bubble up in my throat as he told me that the driver was busy and would be here, well, when he got here. His abrupt answer was like a red cloth to my Mommy-bull heart and even though I didn’t voice the 10 sarcastic answers that came to mind, I fantasised about reaching through the phone and giving him a swift slap.
Who did he think he is? My child was very ill and I had phoned early enough to get it delivered on time. I was agitated for the rest of the morning, replaying the scenario in my head, rehearsing what I should have said. Calls were made, sympathy was gathered. I hatched my plan of revenge by complaining on social media. (I know, I know…)
I would love to say that eventually when the driver came, I met his broad white smile with my own, but sadly, I was determined to punish him for his boss’ ungraciousness. I was curt and didn’t give him a tip as I normally would. “I’ll show them”, I thought. I felt completely justified.
But God never smoothes over my ugly. Sometimes I wish He did.
That afternoon, we had to go to the same pharmacy to get medicine for my husband who was starting to get a cold at work. It annoyed me that I had to go. By “annoyed” I mean I felt guilty, knowing the full adult-tantrum I had thrown just hours earlier. As we got out the car I laughed and said to my eldest: “Let me go and learn how to forgive”. Little did I know…
I was in and out as fast as possible and tried not to make eye-contact. The shame-walk. When we got back to the car, it wouldn’t start. My phone battery had died too. My shoulders drooped when I realised that I would have to go back inside and ask for help.
It really is embarrassing for me to explain what happened during the next hour. We were made to feel like guests. The boys got seats at a little table for colouring, we were given access to their phones, they offered me paracetamol for the little one’s fever and one pharmacist even phoned her husband to get a number for the local taxi service. They were on the phone with my husband and also with the taxi to let them know the exact location when he got lost. The delivery driver came in and met me with the same white smile. I half-smiled, too ashamed to look up properly.
“Let me go and learn how to forgive”. Indeed.
See. I re-told this story to a lady who is not a Christian and especially when I mentioned the “f”-word (forgive), she reacted in the same way I did. “How dare he? I hope you complained!”
The funny thing about forgiveness is this: It’s not funny. It’s not easy. It doesn’t make sense.
Jesus said so many things that didn’t make sense to us: “Forgive and you will be forgiven”, “Give and you will receive”, “Turn the other cheek.” And why? – Because we are inherently selfish, proud and self-centred. That is the ‘ugly’ that is sitting in all of us just below the surface. Antagonise the thin veneer just a little and it’s there for all the world to see. And we cover it up and justify it and egg each other on.
What scared me and scares me now even while I am writing this, is how Jesus saw through us and got to the bottom of it in Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV):
Murder Begins in the Heart
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
In that moment on the phone, I DID hate that man. “You fool!” is a lot more timid than what I had in mind. That is why God dealt with it the same day. He loves me too much to leave me in that dark place. He knows that when I fellowship with acrimony and self-pity, I lose my ability to hear His gentle voice.
I am so thankful that He did. And the discomfort I still feel when I think of the situation is my reminder to live light, forgive easily and get back to the plan He has for my life in stead of getting stuck on the treadmill of offense.
I resolved to use only that pharmacy in future if I can help it, as a reminder. A “monument” to the effects of sin that He saved me from.
Is there anyone you need to forgive?