Words from Pastor Jim:
It wasn’t but a few months after I got my driver’s license at age 16 that I had my first accident. I was following a friend who was driving a very cool 1957 Chevrolet. I was driving a very uncool 1958 Dodge that we had inherited from my grandparents. My friend in his cool Chevy had gotten pretty far ahead of me. I had lost sight of him and I was trying to catch up. And, as I rounded a blind curve—I caught up.
My friend had stopped behind a car that was turning left. I remember standing on the brake of the Dodge with both feet so hard that my rear end lifted off the seat. That big ol’ Dodge just wasn’t going to stop in time. I tried to veer off into the ditch too late. As I said—I caught up.
To make the story more interesting, this event took place right in front of our church, Mechanicsville Presbyterian, on a Sunday evening—as the saying goes, “right in front of God and everybody”.
The inevitable crowd gathered. I went into the church to call my parents. Then I had the interminable wait for my parents to show up, the police, the tow trucks, and finally the clearing of the accident site.
Then, the shame. I had wrecked a car my parents (nor, I) could afford—and, let them down. I wrecked my friend’s very cool car that our other friends kept reminding me about—and, how cool it was. The judge in our community had a zero tolerance policy for new drivers—you turned your license over to him for 90 days for any infraction.
To my 16 year old ego, it seemed this event had ruined my life forever. Slowly, things began to improve, though. At 16, ‘forever’ is a relative concept.
I was fortunate to grow up with very forgiving (probably, too forgiving) parents. They were able to replace the car with a newer used car, more practical than that old “land yacht” Dodge.
My friend got his Chevy repaired and, even though it was in pristine original condition before the accident, he took this opportunity to modify it—to make it even more cool.
Our other friends found something else to talk about and eventually stopped giving me a hard time—forgetting more than forgiving.
The judge finally returned my driver’s license. I had served my penance and was restored to the community of duly licensed drivers.
And finally, my parents let me start driving their cars again—some limitations to begin with, but I soon regained their trust. It wasn’t long before they told me I could stop making the small payments toward the cost of the accident.
I’m sharing this story in detail because it includes a variety of models of forgiveness. What is not evident in these details was the hardest lesson in forgiveness of all—the forgiveness of self.
Why was it so hard to forgive myself? No one got hurt. The damage was repaired. The cost was covered by insurance, my parents, and my small contribution. I served my time of lost driving privileges. What I couldn’t forgive, though,—was my lost self-esteem. I couldn’t forgive what I had done to my reputation—to my coolness (so vital to a 16 year old).
What I really wanted wasn’t forgiveness. I wanted so much more. I wanted this event to be erased from the memory of the world (Have you seen any of those Men in Black movies?). I wanted to restore what I believed this event had done to lower my standing in the minds of others—my standing in my community.
Our egos and yearning for self-esteem (really the esteem of others) is a powerful force. It is such a powerful force in our lives we believe we can wield it against those who hurt us—by withholding forgiveness of them. This rarely has the effect we expect—but, we keep trying with our unforgiving ways.
Obviously, none of this reflects the ultimate model of forgiveness—the grace of Jesus Christ. Because of Christ’s sacrifice in his death, Jesus restores our standing in the Kingdom of God, as if our mistakes, our failings, and even those things done intentionally had never happened.
I hope you join us this Season of Lent and Easter as we learn more about what it means to be truly forgiven and how to forgive—with perfect forgiveness by the grace of Jesus Christ.
Newsletter (PDF format): newsletter-March 2019
Monthly Calendar with Birthdays : March_19_Calendar