Thursday, February 14, 2013

The convenient forgetting of sin

My mother-in-law does not remember that she is a bit wobbly on her feet.  Each time she lists to the side she is amazed that she almost fell.  “Well, I’ve never done that before,” she usually asserts.  Because she doesn’t remember her wobbles, or her falls, she is reluctant to use the cane recommended by her doctor. 

I accidentally found a way to avoid an argument about the cane when I informed her that without it we could not get away with using the handicapped parking hanging tag.  She really enjoys prime parking and the idea that she is getting away with something.  The last time we got out of the car she asked me if I thought she should limp to really make it look good.

You go, Dorris.  Eighty years old, wobbly on your feet and on your memories, and still finding delight in sticking it to the man. 

Sometimes she looks at me and sighs in despair.  When I ask her what is wrong she tells me that I shouldn’t have the burden of caring for her.

This is one memory I wish I could preserve in her mind: Dorris, you are not a burden.  I love you.

I do admit it wears me out to take her some place as I must constantly think about the safest path to a chair, encourage her to take my arm and remind her to “use the cane instead of swinging it around.”  I find her a seat and go to take care of something, but must frequently turn my head to be sure she has not wandered off. It strains my brain to try to stay one step ahead of her.  Even with a fading memory I suspect she still tops me by several IQ points.   It wears me out to try to remember what she says and how she reacts so that Paul and I can make thoughtful decisions about the level of care she needs without prematurely taking away any freedoms she might have at the moment.

It wears me out, but it is a good tired; it is a privileged tired.

I thought about lost memories and burdens when I worshiped at the Ash Wednesday service.  We come to Christ burdened with our sin and that sin becomes His burden.  

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

It is a burden He took on willingly, lovingly and completely.  This truth is something we need to remember, yet, it is too easy to forget.

I know that for me, it is easy to forget my sin.  Once I do that, I lose sight of why I need my Savior.  This is a constant struggle of this life, but what amazes me, again and again, is how difficult it is for me to forget my neighbor’s sin.

Young children are convinced that everything they do is an “accident” while what their peers perpetrate against them was surely “on purpose.”  This comes from a lack of perspective taking; a skill young children are just beginning to learn.

As an adult, however, I have no such excuse.  If I can so easily forget my sin, I need to learn to forget the hurt someone else has caused me.  I think what often gets in the way of this forgiveness is the motive I assume the other person has for their behavior.  

She just wants to put me down so she can feel superior.

He just wants to keep me quiet.

She just wants to hurt me because she is angry.

He just wants to make himself look good.

Forgiving the sin would be easier if I could stop assuming I know the motive.  

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

God asks me to forgive the behavior (even as He forgives my sins) and to remind me that assigning motives is not my job any more than it is a skill I can accurately accomplish. This frees me from a significant burden.  It steers me back to my relationship with God and in this way strengthens my relationship with my fellow Christians. 

May this Lenten season reminds us of Christ’s complete love and sacrifice.  May it be a season that reminds us we do not carry the burden of our sin and we do not carry the burden of the sin of others.
Our burdens have been exchanged for love.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (ESV)

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