Monday, August 26, 2013

Scratching the Surface of Forgiveness

(Warning, bad language alert, if offended please do not read)

On Friday of last week, person or persons unknown took a key and used it to make a deep 2 foot long scratch on the passenger side door of my new car. I was only away from it for about 5 minutes while I ran into a gas station to get a drink. I have no idea who would do something like this or why. Working for a church I have on occasion run into problems - I was receiving anonymous hate mail for a while (which you can read about here and here) but I'm not aware of anyone I have offended recently.

As you can imagine I was angry. I've had the car less than a year and it's the first 'fun' vehicle I've ever owned so I've become very attached to it. I commented to a friend at work that (warning bad language ahead) 'Some f**king bastard keyed my car'. I'm not one of those people who use f bombs at the drop of a hat. My language isn't perfect, I do occasionally use the f word but it is more for comic effect and shock value than anything else. To actually use it vehemently in anger is a rare occurrence for me.

Jesus clearly said to love your enemies (Matt 5:44). I don't know whether the person who vandalized my car falls into the category of an 'enemy', but I do know that I don't feel particularly charitable to them...especially once I saw the cost of the repair and the car rental while mine is being worked on.

Love the people you would call 'f**king bastards' sounds ugly and offensive...and it is. I wonder though if it some how communicates the radical-ness of Jesus' original statement in a way that 'enemies' does not. There is an emotional component, a visceral reaction that I have to that phrase whereas enemies feels more like an intellectual exercise to me.

While praying over the weekend I found myself challenged to say 'Some child of God keyed my car'. The phrase sits uncomfortably on my tongue, and it forces me to acknowledge that even my enemies are bearers of the image of God. Labeling people as' F**king bastards' or even 'enemies' dehumanizes them, it makes them 'less than' and somehow makes it easier for me to dismiss them. Maybe part of loving our enemies is removing the label of 'enemy' from them.

The scratch in the car door has made my new car look ugly. The scratch has also revealed a little bit of ugliness in myself that I wasn't conscious of. I'm becoming aware that I judge people's driving ability by the state of the car they are driving. If I see an out of shape vehicle on the road - taped up tail lights or dented fenders, then I assume that they are a bad driver. I find myself being more vigilant than usual when passing them.

Suddenly the scratch has me wondering what people who see of it think of my driving. I'm forced to judge myself by the same standard I use on others, and I don't like it. The state of my car was caused by no fault of my own, just because someone else's car is beaten up doesn't automatically mean they are a bad driver. I'm fortunate to be able to afford to get my car repaired, not everybody is that lucky.

If we were forced to judge ourselves as harshly as we judge others maybe we would extend to others the same amount of grace we extend to ourselves.

Living a Contemplative life is an invitation to go deeper onto the mystery of God and into the mystery of yourself. I'm still only scratching the surface.