Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I drove by a church I used to go to, and my resentments of how things had all ended in that last year sprang to mind.  We went there for ten years, with many positive experiences and wonderful people.

I once preached on what the "forgetting" part of forgive and forget means.  Some of you may have been present for that, or some other instance where I spoke about it.  I have written a fair bit about forgiveness and the myths about it over the years, but that point doesn't seem to be in the AVI corpus.  The summary is this: forgetting a sin against you means two things.  First, we officially forget.  Even if the action takes up space in our brain, or even consumes us, we resolve not to hold the action against the other person.  We do not slyly get back at them with hints to others years later; we do not deny them a tenor solo or a job kind word we would give to others.  We may, of course, take all information into consideration when we are making a judgement that affects others.  A person who has molested children should not be working with them again - and those who ask to must be among the most suspect.  But such a person might yet be trusted as church treasurer, or on the leadership council in charge of properties.  That is the first step of "forgetting."

But more important for me today is part two of forgetting: the idea that one does not nurse grievances.  Whatever else forgetting might mean, it means at minimum that we do not rehearse the trespasses against us. I recalled incidents and carried on imaginary conversations all day with Christian brothers and sisters who have likely long forgotten the incidents in question.  I scored points against them repeatedly in my argument.  Not only did I not forget, I went out of my way to remember.

Forgetting the sin does not mean that we flagellate ourselves when we find we that our memories still work.  But it does mean that we do not drink the bitter cup to the bottom, slam it down, and ask the universe to fill it that we might drink again.


Retriever said...

Liked your earlier posts on forgiveness, particularly the allusion to forgiveness. Both my daughters left the church after the choirmaster they had sung with over eight years was unmasked as a pedophile and consumer of child porn. He had been doing it all for over 30 years, and brought child prostitutes back to his church apartment. Some boys from the boys choir in years previously claimed he had bothered them. He had never bothered the girls.
My own instincts had been (God forgive me) that there was something distinctly unsavory about him but that it was safe to let the girls sing with him as he was obviously more interested in boys than girls (as so many choirmasters are).

Complicating the situation was that he was extremely gifted musically, devout Christian, and actually a dear sweet man in other contexts. A wounded soul.

Every time I hear my kids singing Bach in the shower I still silently thank him for the musical education he gave them, and for the sense of mission he had about teaching the kids the sacred choral repertoire. People are such a mix of saint and sinner.

BUT. What made my kids leave was that nobody talked to them about the fact that someone they had trusted and looked up to was actually a pervert. The church rushed to try and cover its tracks. A lawyer in the congregation tried to suppress evidence (and was nearly disbarred for it). Everyone uttered vapid stuff about forgiveness. And the kids were shattered, disillusioned and sickened. One kid is still without a church home, tho I think she would have stayed an Anglican because of the music if not for the horrible revelations about him. The other has converted to Catholicism, after several years with me in the evangelical Protestant church I went to.

As to resentment? I am currently seething with resentment, God forgive me, at my present church because when our house was badly damaged by Storm Sandy last year nobody from our church did anything to help us. The one decent minister left was dealing with a death in the family, so just dropped off a sandwich for my husband. For the last year we have slogged away on our own clearing away the damage from 7 feet of water in our first floor, throwing out everything, ripping everything down to the studs, rebuilding, rewiring, etc. all with just one paid worker, a carpenter friend who was going thru a divorce (we weren't willing to use illegals, so we could only afford one American). Meanwhile, our church posted self congratulatory stories about finding Christ helping Sandy victims by going to help photogenic people in neighborhoods further afield who would bow and scrape and act appropriately awed and grateful to them rich folk for coming to help them. Resentment. I know a lot about resentment.

I still love some of the individual people there. I don't leave because it seems to me that it isn't the church being any worse than any other church. When our house was flooded 21 years ago (in 1992) there was more of a sense of community and everyone around us was more in the habit of pitching in, making casseroles, helping neighbors in need. I try to do it still. But it doesn't seem to be part of the culture these days.

I find that when I do something simple like bring a bland casserole to a new mother or invalid, people around here are surprised. Perhaps they are merely appalled because they'd rather have Boston Chicken? But when I was a young mother, it was expected of a mommy to bring things to neighbors.

I so love the way you describe that chewing over resentments, which we shouldn't. The same way Screwtape Letters describes the way Satan will chew over our bones if we can't get over ourselves, throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, and just stop it.

Retriever said...

Typos earlier, sorry. (Bad cold caught on plane back from Paris. Oh POOR ME!) Anyway, meant to say, allusion to church abuse scandals.