forgiveness...beginnings

* In the interest of full disclosure, most of this post is me reflecting what I gleaned this weekend from the fantastic speakers.  The last portion, in particular, is credited to Josh Harris' talk, "Forgiven to Forgive" available for download soon. (get ready...this might feel like a sermon...)

In a quiet hotel room in Reston, Virginia.  Mid-afternoon and I’m alone and it’s quiet and I have hours before I need to be back downstairs.  I’m grateful for this slice of solitude.

I was asked to come here because of “Weightless.”

There are intersections in life and work that we could not orchestrate if we tried…

For example, after pitching “Weightless” unsuccessfully to other artists, I decided to include it on my “Frame the Clouds” project.  Several of the songs were infused with ideas I had come to understand through study of The Peacemaker (Ken Sande), and in 2008, just before recording, I attended the Peacemaker conference in Florida.  A few months ago, blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies somehow heard the song and posted it on his site, along with a CD giveaway.  As I addressed a package to one of Tim’s winners, I recognized the name of Molly Friesen, a leader at the 2008 conference, and mentioned it in my note to her.  Months later, I received a phone call from Peacemaker Ministries inviting me to come and share “Weightless” and lead worship at the 2010 Peacemaker Conference in Washington D.C

There are things we cannot orchestrate, but God can.

The 550 people who have come together here are ambitious.  Their beliefs are radical.  They have strange visions of mending things long broken, not only so we can sleep at night, but so that GOD will be GLORIFIED through our everyday conflicts and so that the WORLD will notice.

“They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love…”

Is LOVE what we are known for?

Broken families, marriages, churches, race relations, partnerships, friendships…are we known by love, humility, peace?

Several years ago,  when I began meeting with my pastor and several others, to read and discuss The Peacemaker, we dug deep into biblical reconciliation, and I was shocked by how much I did not know.

What does repentance look like?  What does forgiveness require?  Is it all really necessary?  Isn’t it enough to try to forget what we’ve done, what has been done to us…move on?  Why does “sorry if you felt hurt…” seem to only make things worse?

The stories we’ve heard this week of people who have found the way to forgive heinous crimes and injuries committed against them and their loved ones...parents of murdered children...survivors of terrorist attacks...adult children of violently abusive parents... are astonishing, beautiful--and devastating to the heart that wants to justify bitterness.

Seriously…HOW?

What about Joseph, whose brothers literally threw him away, severing him from his childhood, his home, his father…?  What on earth would compel a man to love and provide for the people who tried to destroy him…to release them from his wrath when he had the power to make them pay?

The answer, of course, is: Nothing on earth.

Nothing on earth would compel him to love like that. Nothing on earth would compel me to love like that.  No strength or anything of ourselves will compel us to LOVE LIKE THAT.

It's supernatural…born of God...nonexistent apart from Him.

Many books have been written about forgiveness.  Many words spoken this weekend alone.  I can’t capture it in a blog post.  But I understand now where that journey begins.

Not surprisingly…it begins where ALL life begins.

At the point where our path intersects with a cross on a hilltop, in another time, on the other side of the world...this is where LIFE, our real Life, begins.

At that intersection--where His Son hung by hands and feet, bleeding, ripped, alone and condemned--God reached deep down into a pit of filth reeking of death...

and pulled me out.

pulled you out.

even as His son hung dying...

washed us like a mother does her newborn,

and took us home.

Life begins there.  Our true delivery.  And our forgiveness of others begins there with us revisiting our birthplace, retelling the story:

I was found in filth.

I was found not AFTER I came to him sorry and cleaned up, but before that.

He chose me dirty.

If I'm sorry and cleaned up, it's because he loved me.

When I even start to fathom the enormity of what I’ve received without one iota of merit…then I (as Josh Harris said so much better Thursday night) will be like a buried-in-unrepayable-debt criminal who’s just come from the throne room, having received a pardon she neither expected nor deserved.

At the intersection of guilt & forgiveness, tears of joy and gratitude prevent me from seeing quite so clearly the sins of others and wrongs done to me.

Instead, maybe: “I don’t even care what you’ve done; do you know what just happened to me?!”

It's not the end of the story...your story may read more like the gentleman who told us how he waited years and years to forgive his father for massive childhood abuse, then another 20 for his father to accept his forgiveness on his deathbed...

But unless we begin, we have no idea of the possibilities.

Well, I've carried this a long time

In a well-hidden bundle on my back

But I've realized forgiveness is weightless

So I'll leave my burden on the track...