“I forgave you…should you not also you have mercy?”
(me at age 5 – nursery school graduation)
Once upon a time there was a girl. All her friends and family thought she was a very good girl.
She did her chores, obeyed her teachers, was nice to her friends, and kept out of trouble.
She followed The Rules.
The Rules were a set of laws designed to keep everybody happy. They were good rules, like Never raise your voice in anger and Don’t talk too much and Always say please and thank-you.
The girl lived her life every day being ever so careful to learn and follow these rules. She kept quiet instead of chattering her thoughts so she wouldn’t say the wrong thing. She sat in the front row at school so that she wouldn’t miss anything the teacher said. She even did all her homework when she’d rather have been doing anything but homework.
And everyone loved this very good girl.
But sometimes in the night when everyone was sleeping, this good girl had nightmares about all the things nobody knew about. Like the black and white t.v. her parents had proudly displayed in the living room, her mind filled with pictures of deeds done wrong. Shameful things. Things that broke The Rules.
No one knew about these great misdeeds. The girl had learned to pretend very, very well. She knew how to lie and to steal and to cheat on her homework.
No one knew about the flashlight she hid so that she could burrow under the covers to finish her Nancy Drew book. Or about the awful words that often bubbled right up to her tongue, flooding her mind with dirty debris.
Nobody knew how much she hated Mrs. Moran, her math teacher who’d humiliated her in front of everybody, and Mary Cunningham, who’d made fun of her at lunchtime, and that horrible boy down the hall who’d called her a gorilla because she was so very awfully hairy.
And as the girl grew, her misdeeds grew with her.
Darker things. Meaner thoughts. Uglier words.
And because the Rules at home with her family were different than the Rules at school with her friends, it got harder and harder to obey all the Rules.
But she tried, she really did.
She turned over new leaves, she threw Bad Things away, and she promised herself never ever to lie again.
But it didn’t work. And the nightmares got worse.
And the good little girl knew that she was very, very bad.
But everybody she knew was bad just like her. Her friends stole, her brother partied, her mom spewed the bad words, and even her dad got mad sometimes.
The good girl gone bad was surrounded by bad.
Then one day she heard a story about a Man who could make bad people good. She didn’t believe it at first. After all, none of those other things had worked. The bad seemed stuck.
No matter how she tried, all that darkness deep inside wouldn’t stay down. Like the dirty goldfish pond at Grandpa’s farm, there was just too much mud for the water to ever clear. She was doomed to be bad.
But she kept coming back to the Man, tiptoeing around the edges of the story, trying to get a glimpse of Him. Wondering why He’d want anything to do with a girl like her.
A bad girl.
Days passed, weeks, months, until the day came when the Man-who-could-make-people-good invited the good-girl-gone-bad to come close. And when she did, He held out His hands to show her something really, really awful while He told her something really, really beautiful.
The something awful was the scars. Ugly, oozing holes right through his hands.
Everything in the girl wanted to turn away from those repulsive scars, yet something held her there, transfixed by this Good Man holding bad in His hands.
That’s when He told her the something beautiful.
The scars, He said, were for you. All the bad you have ever done, all the bad you will ever do, all the bad you have become, is covered by those scars. Not hidden, not ignored, not pretended away, but covered by a love that changes everything. And what’s more, I will use these scared hands of mine to make you new. To change the way you are. To throw the past away. To hold you close so that you never have to hide again.
To make you good.
And He did.
And she became someone new and the goodness grew and spread and the nightmares stopped and everyone loved her and she was very, very happy.
Until one day many, years later when someone she loved did something very, very mean to hurt the girl.
Something not right.
And the blackness she’d thought gone surged up again. And she got mad.
Over and over she went to the Man-who-could-make-someone-good and begged Him to make the mean one stop being bad to her.
And all He did was nothing.
Nothing at all.
The mean one kept being mean and the good girl kept getting mad and no one was happy.
Then one day she read in the Man’s book of stories about a king in a kingdom who caught one of his favored ones doing bad. A man he’d trusted. A man he’d been good to. And instead of being mad at the man, the king felt compassion for him and released him and forgave him the bad.
And the forgiven man was happy. Very happy.
But then someone did something bad to the man-set-free and he got mad. So he grabbed the mean man by the throat and started to choke him and threaten him and demand that he be put in prison like he deserved.
And the story made the girl sad, for she knew she was like the set-free-man wanting to choke the badness out of the one who’d been mean to her. Wanting to strike back. Demanding the mean one away.
And she turned to see the king staring right into her eyes- right into the heart of the girl-who’d-been-made-good. And she saw tears flowing down His heart.
And I am that girl.
The girl-with-the-bad-heart-made-good demanding the mean one away.
I see His tears. I know His mercy for a bad one and I know that now it’s my turn.
God help me.
From my heart,
PS: Next week read more about what it means to forgive and how…