The gremlins got busy with my last post, with the result that the text was mangled with, among other typographical nuisances, repeated and misplaced paragraphs. The posting on the website eventually got corrected, but it didn’t help anyone who received the posting as a direct forward via email. To those who were left mystified by the mistakes, my apologies!
I remember reading years ago the adage that if you really wanted to mess things up, get a computer. That sentiment obviously belonged to someone who really didn’t embrace the newer technology. Yet it often does seem that much in life gets messed up when computers go haywire, or the gremlins have been busy.
Of course, too many mistakes borne of our haste, inattentiveness, ineptitude, or sloppiness gets blamed on gremlins, technology, or some other cause. We do love to foist responsibility onto others, so that we can appear as the victims of some malicious force in the universe, rather than as the authors of our own misfortunes. If it wasn’t the gremlins, it was the person who interrupted us and took too much of our time, or someone in another department who messed up after us. Perhaps that is why, if all else fails, we will blame either the politicians, or if we are really desperate, the devil for our woes, rather than humbly admit our own fault.
Human beings are especially loathe and resistant to admitting our fault and folly, or confessing our stubborn defiance and mean-spiritedness, or repenting of the hurt caused by temper, tongue, and tirade. Unfortunately, though time heals many wounds, it seems especially unable to bring people to a place of honest self-appraisal and humble acknowledgement of our jerky behavior, our stupid decisions or our callous and cruel judgments made against others. Thus, divisions between folk seem often to grow over time, not recede, as if our pride will not let us say those healing words: “I’m sorry. Whatever might be yet debated about who was right and who was wrong and about the things we argued over, I am 100% responsible for the things that I said and did and thought which were not kind, true, or of God. And I don’t want this division between us to last any longer. Please forgive me.”
I sometimes wonder what will happen when we arrive at heaven’s gate. Will it be that we will find our way barred by the deep moat of our anger and hate towards others and by the harsh iron gates of our continuing resentments and unwillingness to forgive and seek forgiveness? Will it be that we find ourselves, like a helpless cripple in the gospel story, needing to be carried to the feet of Jesus by loving friends, yet discover that the friends who must do the carrying are those with whom we have never sought to reconcile? Will we find ourselves unable to enter heaven’s glory largely because we so refused to live heaven’s grace here on earth?
In the gospel of Matthew, we read that when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, giving them the words of the Lord’s Prayer, he also told them that if they forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father would also forgive them; but if they refused to forgive others, their heavenly Father would not forgive them. It seems that Jesus took very seriously the need for us to stop looking for people and justifications to blame. Instead we need to take far more seriously the need to learn mercy, honesty, humility, and graciousness, with others and with ourselves.
There is a well-known old fable about the man who was newly admitted into heaven. Being ushered through the many rooms of heaven’s mansion, St. Peter suddenly whispered to the man to be quiet, and together they tiptoed past a heavily barricaded doorway. Farther down the passageway, the man could not contain his curiosity and asked Peter what was behind the door. Oh, replied Peter. That room is full of Presbyterians (or insert the name of the denomination you want to jibe)—they think they are the only ones here.
I wonder whether in fact the heavily barricaded door and room contain all the souls who will not forgive. I suspect it is a very cold, lonely and frightening place to be. It may very well be as much what hell is as anything. Yet all the time, heaven’s grace and joy are waiting to be entered and enjoyed. Or to put it simply, hell is demanding that someone else is to blame and that they cannot be forgiven. Heaven, on the other hand, is finding ourselves and others set free by the power of forgiveness and the gift of mercy and the exercise of grace. And the question is whether I am living in heaven or hell right now. Where I make my bed today may very well determine where I will spend eternity.