Saturday, January 14, 2012

4-Give, and other math lessons from Taco Bell

Very rarely do I write about anyone except myself or someone in my immediate family.  I speak of my kids often because of my experiences as a parent and how I want to keep a running journal of points in our lives growing together.  One day I won’t have them anymore, and I would like to look back at the influence we had on each other as people.

That isn’t tonight though.

Something happened late last year that I still think about, and was brought up in the back of my mind while discussing a topic over the phone with a friend.

I love talking to my friends.  You know the good ones.  There are certain friends that topics are not off limits with.  Some friends may know some faults of yours that even your spouse doesn’t know.  These people are hard to come by, and if lost, almost impossible to replace.  I pick my friends very carefully, I teach my children to do the same.

Certain conversations with friends of mine who share the same faith started in early December about forgiveness.  And it all began at a Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is a magical place.  Honestly.  They have Mountain Dew.  That drink encourages you to attempt the impossible at 2AM.  Much like Denny’s use to while attending college and you needed to go someplace that was not your room at midnight.  The Denny’s in Orland Park had a mythical creature whose name was Acid Andy.  Acid Andy would stroll in about 1AM, dressed in his tie dye t-shirt and stone washed jeans. And smoke.  I am sure Acid Andy would have granted wishes if asked, he was truly a genie sage.

I have no proof of any of that.

So, sitting with 3 other adults in Taco Bell we started talking about situations in their lives that didn’t turn out as expected due to others.  Betrayal, hurt feelings and the onset of bitterness and how they had begun coping with that.  We made light of the situations, but still talked seriously over what was happening.

As an aside, I joke often.  You need to.  Seriously, I often mention my white hot ball of hate I have towards things.  It’s a fabulous ball that keeps me warm during Christmas.  I take it out in increments and use it to thaw the lock on my car door in sub zero weather.

But something came up that night I had to think about.  Three of the people there had a parent leave the family.  Mine was such a long time ago, but the other two were more recent.  One was just a few months ago.

We talked about the situations, the actions, and eventually, the forgiveness we are supposed to give.  We are Christians, right?  We are supposed to forgive, yes?

This is where it dawned on me that most Christians don’t forgive.  That’s a blanket statement I know, but follow me.  One of the hallmarks of a Christian is to display the same level of forgiveness that Christ did.  That’s easy right?   Even Peter asked Jesus if someone offends him, how often he should forgive them.  Jesus responded with a math problem.  Why?   Jesus loved math.

He was also trying to prove to Peter something.  You forgive them.  All the time.

Does this mean you let someone walk all over you?  Well, if you hate math, no.  But if you love math like I do then yes, you forgive.

Now fast forward to my conversation this week with my other friend.  We started talking the prodigal son.

Here is a story that Jesus starts telling in mixed company about a father with 2 boys.  It’s plain that it’s talking about God and how he takes back and forgives unconditionally the son who left.  Immediately.  No. Questions. Asked.

The story doesn’t end there though.  It carries on a bit further where the other son, you know, the one who didn’t leave and spend all his money on whores and smokes, he is ticked and standing outside the party of the returned brother who the Father is rejoicing over.

And you know what?  He is mad his Dad is doing this all for his returned brother.  Why?  Because he couldn’t forgive him for what he did, and he wondered, why did his Dad forgive him?

At the base level it’s a great story about 2 Christians, and the return of a wayward one to God.  But it also is glaringly obvious of another fact.

Christians don’t forgive.  Or more accurate they are in and of themselves unable to reach that conclusion of responsibility on their own.

I need to remind my kid often to practice this with each other.  Like when Collin erases Katie or Brandon’s DS game for the 5th time.  Or when Collin sneaks into Katie’s room and takes her stuff.  Or when Collin does….well whatever else he does that makes Brandon and Katie mad at him and wanting to bury him in the backyard.

But on a more practical level, when we have been in a position to offer forgiveness, should do so as the example we have been given.  Wholly and complete with rejoicing.

Or at least a party at Taco Bell.