We might hear of some grand acts of forgiveness – parents forgiving their child’s murderer, for instance – and think that our small acts don’t measure up. But daily life seems to be filled with the small stuff. Can we extend forgiveness in the daily, and if so, how? I love Carol Bostock’s story for all of its rootedness in the ordinary – even to the level of the sticky, congealed chocolate.
It was the day after my mother’s funeral. We had buried her in a woodland burial site after three traumatic months in intensive care following a failed liver transplant. It was very small group at the burial site and I had led the service.
A number of family members were staying in my father’s house for another couple of days. Everyone was tired, emotionally worn out, stressed, not quite knowing what a future without my mother looked like – what it would mean for my father, what it would mean for us all.
It was after lunch and my father had gone to lie down. We were all in that strange state of being in someone’s else’s home, not liking just to sit about talking and laughing as if it were ‘life as normal’ but looking for things to do that felt vaguely useful or helpful.
I can truthfully say that I no longer remember the start of the argument, what was said by whom. But suddenly, another family member and I were having a row. Tempers flared very suddenly. Flash points were hit. Harsh and unkind words were said. We both stalked off, seething.
I didn’t even have a place to go to and be mad. It was not my house and there were people, it seemed, in every room. Angry and frustrated I went into the garage. I kicked a box, very hard twice, replayed the row in my head over and over, thought of all the cutting, clever things I wished I had said. I was too full of anger and resentment to see how badly I had behaved.
Then, sudden and unexpected, came that unmistakeable heavy presence of the Lord.
“So now I suppose You want me to forgive him,” I said ungraciously and kicked the box again, even harder.
Very, very clearly, He answered. “Actually, I want you to clean out his car,” He said.
I stood for ten minutes or so in the dim garage, struggling. Then I went and got cloths, water, vacuum cleaner, cleaning products, polish, and a rubbish sack and set to. He owned a number of pets, all of which seemed to have shed hair and fur liberally over the car. A packet of chocolate somethings had melted into a gooey, congealed mess in one of the side pockets. The boot compartment was full of mud. It took me the best part of three hours to clean.
I don’t think I ever formally said to the Lord, “I forgive him and please will you forgive me”; neither did I ever formally ask the family member to forgive me. But I know that on that Saturday afternoon I was forgiven by Jesus for my wrong heart attitude, and I think that at that time and in that place for my family member, actions spoke louder than any words could have done.
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20
When the Prodigal went home to his Father’s house, he never got the chance to say all of his carefully preplanned apology because the Father ran, fell on his neck and kissed him. The Father just wanted to get to the hugging and the kissing…
Working full time at Beauty From Ashes, a Christian inner healing ministry, as a Prayer Minister, Conference Speaker and Retreat Leader, Carol Bostock is walking an unknown path since her husband of 38 years is in the last stages of cancer. Read more at Setting Up Signposts and receive updates at their Facebook page. You can also find out more about Beauty from Ashes, and contact Carol at [email protected].