Tag Archives: forgiveness

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A Letter Home

(A two-minute read)

Dear Mom and Dad,

I sit down to write you again, missing you more than you can know. Forgive me for taking so long.

How are things at home? Life here has sometimes been complicated. But that’s life in this world. Unfortunately I sometimes step out of the simplicity of God’s kingdom and find myself up to my neck. May I be relieved of all bondage as I carry out my assignments here. Thankfully, it’s only a temporary situation.

There will be plenty of time to catch up on those details later; there’s way too much to put in a letter. Or perhaps those things simply won’t matter.

I don’t have to ask how you both are as I know all is well. And, of course, you can’t speak to me of what you see anyway. How did Paul put it? Oh yes – you would have ‘inexpressible words not permitted for a man to say’. Or, as Uncle Eugene said, you have ‘heard the unspeakable spoken’. What a thrill!

Your love and encouragement has carried me through some very difficult times in recent years. Thanks for the prayers before you left for home. You already know, from your heavenly vantage point, that those helped draw me back to God’s kingdom before it was too late. Happily, I’m here to stay. Feeding pigs became so tiresome!

Thanks for the ring and the robe, by the way. They both fit perfectly.

Although I now hurtle toward my 67th birthday I carry joy because I’m one day closer to being with my Lord, and one day closer to seeing you both again. I look forward to joining you in true rest.

Some of my friends have had the privilege of entering that rest this past year, and I miss them deeply. Obviously my first response was weeping and grief, and yet should I not instead celebrate Christ’s victory over death? Such a paradox. Only God knows why something inherently joyful grieves me so. Perhaps after it’s my turn, this will be revealed.

On the other hand, maybe it won’t be important. Perhaps God’s once-for-an-eternity drying of tears will wipe all memory of it. After all, I’ll be out of this world, so grief itself won’t matter any more.

Finally, let me apologize again that I’ve been out of touch so long, although I do feel like you’re taking a glimpse over my shoulder now and then.

Say hello to all my friends and loved ones and tell them I will see them soon enough.

With deep affection from your son,

Alan

soup with vegetables on white ceramic bowl

Homemade Soup

The telly came on in the middle of a movie.

A mother was instructing her new daughter-in-law. ‘Let me show you how to make a proper soup for my son!’ Her tone was confident, knowing. It exuded warmth and familiarity. But he wasn’t paying attention to any of that. The phrase had opened a window to his past. The aromas of his mother’s kitchen seemed to float into the room.

He and Bea had just married and were visiting his childhood home as a couple for the first time. Mom pulled his young wife into the kitchen.

‘Let me show you a few tricks about how he likes things cooked,’ she said, smiling.

From the next room he could almost see the chill silence covering the room in frost. Bea drowned that offering of love in ice water, holding it down until it suffocated.

When the weekend was over and they motored home, he heard all about it.

‘How dare she do that! As though I don’t know how to cook for you,’ she said.

‘That wasn’t it at all. She was trying to be helpful. Help you love me even better than you do now.’ He smiled and turned to her. She continued to stare out the passenger window.

‘It was insulting,’ she said. ‘She could have asked.’

‘Mothers don’t ask, they tell. Does yours ask?’

No answer.

It was the first salvo in a war that escalated over the years, a war he’d had no idea was coming. His pre-marital expectations did not include this. Bea planted a grudge that day, and watered it and nursed it until it sprang up and choked the life out of any chance Dad and Mom had of getting her to receive their love. It finally grew into a huge tree on which Bea tacked up a sign saying, You don’t truly love me so let’s not pretend.

She painted that declaration in the blood of her own childhood wounds. Will realized too late that Bea had grown up in a conditional family, where love was doled out as deemed earned. They were always all at odds. They were all orphans. They weren’t a family. They were a group of snipers.

Where suspicion reigns, each loving gesture is perceived as a threat. Broken lives take input for insult. Bea’s heart had been broken long before Will had met her. Sadly, he didn’t realize how those broken pieces would be like glass, cutting all who trod on them.

Will’s heart was broken too, although he didn’t learn that until years later. When he did, and began to heal, a rift opened between them. She wanted no part of that healing. And so they drifted apart. He marched toward health, while she slid toward increasing bitterness and isolation.

As their marriage broke down and fell apart, he watched the leaves on her tree of resentment wither and fall off. They littered the ground between them.

In his dreams, after the divorce, he had long conversations with her about much of what had transpired between them. He could speak of his failings and mistakes, but she could not. She had nothing to say to his imagination. Sadly, he realized he never actually knew her. She was unwilling to be known.

Will had acknowledged his own mistakes and the acceptance of each one hurt him badly. He prayed for release and forgiveness, knowing he’d likely never receive it from Bea, even if they ever spoke again.

On a walk years later, a leaf drifted out of an empty sky, landing at his feet. He stooped and turned it over. That settled the matter.

He then straightened and moved forward.

Image by Votsis Panagiotis via Pexels

hands making a heart

Thoughts on Equality

This is part of an ongoing series about the Ministry of Reconciliation.
A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Two centuries ago a group of Christians from my church in South London were instrumental in ending slavery in the British Empire. Great men and women all: people of bold faith, humility, perseverance and skill. Their desire was for an equitable society.

We are still working on it, but thank God: we are still working on it! We have not given up. Progress is being made. Is it ever fast enough? Of course not. But, who do we remember? Who do we teach about? By and large they are the light-skinned ones.

We celebrate them, of course. But let’s also celebrate the dark-skinned ones: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Ottobah Cugoano.

Would the light-skinned ones have fed the fire had it not been for the dark-skinned ones who lit the match? I don’t know, but I expect not, or at least not as quickly.

One slogan of the UK abolition movement was, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ This remains a relevant question, although we might broaden the language today for more political correctness.

Regardless of all that, the answer from the world of reconciliation is, ‘Yes. Yes you are.’ Indeed we all are, as we’re all made in the image of God, even those of us who don’t currently believe in Him.

I offer this response about reconciliation with humility because I always come from a place of ignorance, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your background. There is much I don’t know and will never know about my dark-skinned friends, simply because I’m a light-skinned friend.

But may I say it: even though the dark-skinned ones have the light-skinned vision broadcast to them endlessly from all corners all their lives, they truly don’t know our lives either.

Many of them are my beloved brothers and sisters, my friends, and in some cases my prayer partners and confidants. But, because the world can categorize us by the color of our skin we did not and will not have the same experiences.

But isn’t that the way of life? Even when I am as like as possible to another person, we are separated by more than skin.

The truth is that I don’t know anyone’s life but my own, not truly. Certainly not someone’s inner life. Not even my wife’s, whom I know better than anyone. ‘For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him?’ 1 Or put another way, ‘After all, who can really see into a person’s heart and know his hidden impulses except for that person’s spirit?’ 2

I can converse with my dark-skinned friends about racial justice issues all I want. But I will never be able to say truly and fully, ‘I know how you feel,’ or ‘I know how it was.’ Nor can they about me, actually. But we can share matters of the heart: love, fear, joy, pain, anxiety, certainty; hopes, dreams and expectancy; all those invisible, eternal things.3 Those are common to us all.

So let us begin there. Those are our common ground. That’s where our reconciliation begins: in humility and vulnerability.4 That was Christ’s model. God humbled himself to appear in the world as a human being. Divine and living a perfect life, yet vulnerable. As a baby, as a boy, as a man killed brutally and unjustly for the crimes of others. For me. For you. Because of me. Because of you.

As I attempt to approach all these ideas with humility and vulnerability, I should be able to ask the same of you. All of us are equal or none of us is. As for the ignorance I experience? So long as I don’t use it as a shield to avoid my deficiencies, I’ll be all right.

1. 1 Corinithians 2:11
2. 1 Corinthians 2:11 (TPT)
3. 2 Corinthians 4:18
4. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

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