I’ve often pondered how to align my life more closely to Christ Church’s mission statement: We seek to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. The second phrase—loving our neighbors as ourselves—is especially challenging as we focus on forgiveness this Lenten season. It posits that we must first love—e.g. forgive—our own imperfect selves before we can fully forgive and love others. This is not an easy or simple task. It requires honest self-examination, thoughtful reflection, and deep humility.
Years ago, before I crossed Christ Church’s threshold, a good friend publically criticized and humiliated me in front of a large group of professional colleagues. Thereafter I kept him at arm’s distance, rationalizing that all fault lay with him—his pettiness, his weaknesses, his needs. Then one morning when he casually complimented my new haircut all my pent-up anger suddenly vanished. Forgiveness washed over me and the heavy bitterness I’d harbored for years evaporated.
I have replayed this remarkable scenario many times trying to discern the source of that healing forgiveness. I now think that God simply intervened in order to demonstrate to “doubting Janis” the healing power of genuine forgiveness. By focusing on my friend’s faults I’d been able to remain blind to my own deep feelings of inadequacy and doubt. (And, to be honest, he did have some justification for his initial criticism!) Psalm 139 states that the Lord knows our every thought and action—no matter how mean or petty it may be–and still loves us in spite of our shortcomings. Given this assurance I am freed—indeed I am called—to honestly examine myself so that I may more fully love my neighbor.
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from whom no secrets are hidden, give me the strength and courage to seek, recognize and accept the truth about myself so that I may forgive myself and thereby be empowered to love my neighbor as myself.
Friends and members of our Christ Church family have prepared these daily reflections as a means for you to consider how forgiveness informs your faith walk during this holy season. They are a richly diverse group from many different geographies around our nation and globe, formed by a wide variety of traditions.