reflections

the first miracle

The first miracle — and the most important one is this: you are forgiven.

This is the first miracle that we get because it is the first miracle we need. We need it more than all the other miracles, even though — if you are needing a miracle right now — it will seem like I am making it up. But I am not.

The reason we start here is because of this: you failed. You totally screwed up. I know this.

I don’t know if it happened yesterday or five months ago or ten years ago or just now. I don’t know if it even relates to the miracle you are looking for. Maybe it was a little thing — you took an extra piece of cake, when you were trying to be careful or you yelled at your kid or your laundry came out all covered in crayon wax like mine once did. Or maybe it was big thing — you wrecked someone or something, whether by anger or by accident, and now things are broken, including you.

I don’t know how you messed up, I just know that you did. I know it because you are a human and I am a human and messing up is our regular side act, it’s the one thing we all do and do well.

I also know this: you are forgiven.

Even when the chocolate is smeared on your face and when the wax is still on the clothes and when the car is dented and when that person won’t call — even then, in that moment, you are forgiven.

We think it has to be right. We think that we and everything else will be OK when it all gets back to what it was supposed to be, before we messed up. We think that we have to fix it all, ourselves and the dents and the clothes, but that is not the truest  problem. That is not where the miracle needs to take place, not at first.

Forgiveness is where Jesus starts, even though it confuses us and makes us a little impatient for the “real miracle”. But he knows you need to get this one first because it can wreck us, hanging onto all that stuff. Whatever it is, you are forgiven. Whoever you are, you are forgiven. Whatever you’ve done, you are forgiven.

Forgiveness is always the first miracle and it’s the one that we are slow to see and slow to believe. Healings and restoration phone calls and resurrections and checks in the mail, those are plausible and we hold out hope. But forgiveness? Forgiveness is the last thing we believe can happen to us and yet, it is always the first and most sure.

But it is the kind of miracle that won’t settle in without a fight. Because once you turn and begin accepting this forgiveness — from others and from God and then, hardest of all, from yourself — the voices will begin to sneer: ‘Who do you think you are?’

They sound like they know what they’re talking about. Because you aren’t anyone special, not really. You’re just the screw up and chances are, someone else is paying the price, so what gives you the right to let yourself off the hook, just like that? You did not invent forgiveness — how can you be an authorized dealer?

It’s God that came up with forgiveness. Then he handed a whole bunch to Jesus and told him to throw a party with it and you are invited to that party. So if you come to the party, it’s God that says you are forgiven. God! So you’ve got some serious ego problems if you insist on arguing about the matter.

Grace means God gets a bit forgetful about our sin and mistakes, as if the only time he remembers is when we remind him. So if he says you are good to go, then the only one in the way is yourself. Why we hold onto our mistakes, I don’t know. But we do, we carry them around like a backpack of rotten garbage and wonder why it smells so bad, why we can hardly stand ourselves.

When you accept forgiveness, you become an authorized dealer. You get to forgive yourself. You get to look Guilt and Failure in the face, put your hands on your hips and announce in your best grade-school kid voice: You’re not the boss of me.

You are forgiven. It is already true whether you take it or not. So take that miracle, believe it and walk in it and see what other miracles will unfold from that place.

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