Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
My daughter Delaney had a food allergy attack a couple of weeks ago. She snuck a cookie she knew she couldn’t have, took a few bites, and placed the rest back in the container. She then spent the next five hours extremely sick (really, really sick). Needless to say, the event was dramatic, scary, frustrating, depressing, and chaotic. It put us all on edge and brought out the best and worst of us.
My wife and I were at our best as we cared for our daughter. Seemingly experts by now at all-things-allergy, we responded with tact and discipline. We treated her and monitored her. As she grew sicker we cared for her, calmed her and reassured her. We also kept up with the other two kids in our house that still needed to eat, bathe, be entertained, and go to sleep.
Unfortunately, we were at our worst as the stress of this instance prompted us to throw barbs back and forth. I volleyed the first shot: How could you let her eat that? My wife fired back: They’re your kids too, you know. I shot back a quick retort; she parried and sent another. For a spell I tried the silent treatment. At one point, the look in her eyes told me everything I needed to know.
In the midst of us at our best – working together, responding with diligence and love – we also found ourselves at our worst. And the tension of that reality (on top of the tension of the health scare) was almost too much to bear. It exposed our blessedness and brokenness, our capabilities and limitations, our sainthood and the hard truth that we are sinners.
At the end of the day (which was actually in the middle of the night), when the dust settled and we were through the storm, we crashed on the couch next to each another. I can’t speak for my wife, but I found myself caught wanting to hug her, thank her and praise her, but also wanting to rehash some of our arguments through the night. I love you, Kate; now let’s talk about that look you gave me earlier. Kate, you’re amazing and impressive; want to walk anything you said to me earlier back? These convoluted thoughts swirled through my consciousness. It also dawned on me in that moment that I was a fool, mean and unfair. Moreover, it occurred to me that even though I did most things right throughout the night, I also said a lot of things that were wrong.
After some silence, I mustered up the courage to say, “Thank you for forgiving me.” (Which is not the way to apologize.) “I forgive you?” she asked, not said. “Yeah, Jesus wants you to,” I replied, “that’s how this whole thing works. Also, I’m sorry.” Kate forgave me; I forgave her. And the grace we shared empowered us to move on liberated from the anger that would hold us back.
Grace and forgiveness… that’s the only way life together works.
On any given day we are all capable of being at our best and at our worst. Today might be one of those days for you or those around you. Maybe you crushed it at work, but dropped the ball at home. Maybe you did everything right, but said everything wrong. Maybe you lost your temper with your kids, but it was after making them dinner and cleaning up their toys and playing with them for hours. The way things work on days like these – on any given day – is we forgive. We forgive each other and we forgive ourselves.
And through that grace – through that mercy – through that love – through that forgiveness – we are strengthened and empowered to carry on. We are no longer bound by bitterness and resentment, but buoyed by joyful and thankful hearts. And then, as we share and experience grace, we find peace. Peace in the midst of the storm. Peace in the midst of chaos. Peace in the face of danger. Peace when we feel overwhelmed. Peace when we’re scared, frustrated and depressed.
To my wife, my friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ who are reading this: I know I’m not perfect; thanks for forgiving me.
And to all of those who also aren’t perfect: I forgive you too.
Let us be glad and rejoice in the salvation that comes to us through grace – grace that is received from God and extended to one another when we’re at our best and worst.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.