Sep 272012

Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

~Henri J.M. Nouwen

I am both relieved and reviled by this quote.

Generations of over-achievers have gone before me on both sides of my family. We don’t do things poorly. We push through until we get it right. Where we are weak, we work harder.

So I chafe hard against the idea that in the area that counts the most, that of love and relationships, I will not reach my standards for myself; I will not meet my own expectations.

And yet these standards and expectations exhaust me!

I am a limited, aging, needy, distracted human being.

This fact is a daily disappointment to me. But because it is the unavoidable truth, what a relief that it’s not perfection but forgiveness that is the “great work.”

Much of my time is spent running around cleaning up after people—their dishes, socks, crumbs, spills, careless words, and impulsive actions. The other day I stopped in my tracks, dirty socks in hand, as it hit me that this is how God spends much of his time as well.

“You restore the wasted years, you build the broken walls, your love replaces fear, your mercy makes us whole. Adopted, healed, and lifted…” (Aaron Keyes, I Am Not the

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). Tears sprang as I heard this song and was overcome by the sweetness of a God who runs around cleaning up my messes, fixing and repairing what I have broken. He is not above janitorial work.

Sometimes when I’m in the darkness of disappointment over a painful parenting moment or missed opportunity, a little light comes on. It dawns on me that the sting of regret doesn’t have to be the end of the story. The

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episode is still unfolding, the “great work” is yet ahead.

I pray under my breath for an opportunity to go back and ask forgiveness or give it, talk about it or listen. I pray for a chance to be present in the way I would have like to have been the first time around. I am amazed and humbled by how many times I get this chance.

Leonard Cohen sings, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Do you have a story of a time when you loved poorly, and then saw

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the light and love of God come in a fresh way for you or your kids?



© 2012 Standing on Peace


  4 Responses to “Forgiveness”

  1. Last week, at the end of one day when I had been particularly hard and demanding and sarcastic with my children, I was putting Ian (10 year old) to bed. I knew that I had to repent and ask his forgiveness for my actions that day. (I had literally made both he and his sister cry.) Honestly, at that moment, I felt so tired of asking for forgiveness all the time from my children that I thought; “You know what, I’m just going to leave it. Kiss him goodnight and whatever.” But something similar to your Nouwen quote came to mind…”We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. ” So I took a deep breath and told him that one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with in my life is not that I am sinner – but that I outright sin as a mother. I don’t just “make honest mistakes;” many times I am consciously unkind or caustic – spewing my bad day and hurt all over those around me. I told him that if he were an adult, I would feel more like he could handle it, but for him to be a child – and MY child – makes it so much harder to look at and acknowledge. I told him in no other area of my life do I feel the words of St. Paul so deeply, “The good I want to do, I do not do. It’s the evil I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) The depth of my love for him throws into sharp relief the depth of how I sin against him because I can never match in my actions how dearly I love him in my heart or how much I know he deserves. He said, “I know, Mommy and I love you.” “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Thank you, my dear friend for articulating this basic truth to me once again.

    • Hi! I’m just figuring out that there are comments here to reply to 🙂 Heather thanks for sharing your honest story dear friend. I totally relate to the painful reality of our actions never measuring up to what’s in our hearts for our kids. Makes being a mother THE hardest thing. The blow to the ego is pretty unbearable sometimes. Not to mention seeing little people who are sponges for love and never being able to give enough. I guess that’s why there’s God, but it’s hard to see our inadequacy so regularly!

  2. Such a powerful reminder, Heidi. I love the analogy you create here (and I’m not normally a fan of analogies, but you rock it!). I resonate so much with the weariness of having to clean up after others, both metaphorically and literally, and am grateful for the reminder that others, including our Loving God, must get weary of cleaning up after me–even if I’m reliable about putting away my socks.

    • Love you, Mel! I’m glad you put away your socks. I think that might cover a multitude of other sins 🙂 I’m happy to be fellowshipping with you out here in the blog-o-sphere (that’s a saying, right?)

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