People are Not Pavers

No. This is not me.

In yet another one of those “stop the presses” moments I am becoming known for, today’s breaking news headline is: I RESTAINED THE DECK!

This announcement ranks right up there in terms of earth-shatteringness with my last post where you heard me tell you that I MADE THE BED!

Ah, the small victories of retirement.

Our deck was chipped and tacky when we moved here to Fort Collins 2.5 years ago. And it has not miraculously healed itself in the interim. In fact, it has only gotten tackier and chippier.

So Joan and I decided that today was the day. After power-washing, sanding, cleaning, and sweeping, it was ALL HANDS ON DECK for the transformational re-staining.

(See what I did there?)

It all went well. In fact, it was done and dry before a freak afternoon rain shower doused everything with refreshment from on high. 

But wouldn’t you know it; right in the middle of taking a brush to the deck’s exposed edges, a Valuable Life Illustration popped up right in front of me. 

There I was, down on my hands and knees. I had a paintbrush in my hand and was trying to be extra cautious about where the stain ended up, when my hand slipped. A drop and a 1.5-inch stroke of stain ended up on one of the paver stones that form the perimeter of the deck.

Not a big stain, certainly. Noticeable by only a super-meticulous inspector. But a stain, nevertheless. There was now deck stain where there wasn’t supposed to be deck stain. And because the surface on which the stain landed was porous cement, that stain was there to STAY! 

No amount of scrubbing, turpentine, soap, or water will ever change that fact. 

And so, as I knelt there and beheld my boo-boo, I wondered; “Are there people who look at mistakes in their lives the way I am looking at the stain on this paver? Do they look at the pain they’ve caused, the boundaries they’ve violated, the lives they’ve tarnished with a sense of HOPELESSNESS and DESPAIR? Do they gnash their teeth, look to heaven and wail, ‘It’s RUINED! I can never UNDO this damage I’ve done!’”

In one sense, of course, they’re exactly right. A burnt batch of muffins cannot be unburned. A trust betrayed cannot be unbetrayed. And despite what we see in Superman and science fiction movies, mere humans cannot turn the clock backwards to the moment BEFORE our royal screw-up. 

The damage is done. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The stain is on the paver.

And yet, in another, much more important sense, “they” are wrong.

Dead wrong.

King David – one of the Bible’s biggest screwups – believed in God’s power to remove even the stubbornest stain of sin. As he lamented his crimes of lust, adultery, murder, and deceit in Psalm 51 he wailed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7, NRSVU). He knew that God – and ONLY God – could do what no earthly turpentine ever could.

In the divine act of forgiveness, God doesn’t change our past. Instead, God’s forgiveness changes our FUTURE. God knows that without forgiveness, we’d be trapped. There would be no choice for us but to see the die as irreversibly cast… the future as a dead-end alleyway… the paver stone as forever stained.

Jesus understood the life transforming nature of forgiveness and declared it often. One time, in fact, Peter – trying to pose as some kind of super-generous, super-compassionate follower, came up to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”  

He was hoping to hear Jesus say, “WOW! Forgive somebody seven times? That’s amazing! That’s incredible! Unheard of! Peter, you ROCK!”

But instead, Jesus set him straight. He sat Peter down and said, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22, NRSVU). Some translations have Jesus answering, “Seventy times seven.”Which, incidentally, equals 490.

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus ENACTED forgiveness. But he also COMMANDED forgiveness from his followers. The disciple John put it perfectly when he wrote, “… but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NRSVU).

I guess what I am trying to say is: people are not pavers. 

They CAN be un-stained.

Abundant blessings; 

4 Responses to “People are Not Pavers”

  1. May 18, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    Personally, I would think the ‘seventy times seven’ a better riposte to Peter’s query. But whichever it is, I’m still left wondering why there’s some arbitrary limit; it implies that on the 491st (or 78th) occasion, forgiveness is no longer an option…

  2. June 6, 2022 at 2:45 am

    I have known the Lord most of my life and have almost forgotten how horrible guilt feels when you replay that moment over and over in your mind, but it always turns out the same. Self-torture! I’m SO grateful for grace.

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