Nancy cried as we unpacked our household goods. I seethed with
anger. We’d just moved across the country, and when we unpacked we
found dozens of broken items scattered through the boxes: the ornate
ceramic cross a friend gave us several Easters before, the framed
painting of Jesus, a wooden crèche, a copper jewelry box that
held a miniature Bible. We also discovered our gold coin collection was
missing along with more than two hundred CDs.
The damage looked deliberate. None of the broken items had
been wrapped in protective paper. The movers simply tossed them
among other unwrapped items, such as books and metal pans—almost
as if they wanted them to break.
“It isn’t fair,” Nancy said later that evening as we ate our
supper. I knew what she meant. We’re a military family, and we’ve
crossed the country seven times in seventeen years. We’ve left family
and said Goodbye to church friends, knowing it might be years—if
ever—before we would see them again.
But we make these sacrifices because we love our country and
want to do all we can to protect it. That’s why it hurts all the
more when people we serve do what they did.
Two months later, while I stood at a CD rack in a local music
store, I spotted a title we’d owned before the move. As I read the
cover, a sudden lust for vengeance washed over me. Maybe I could
contact the right people and cause the moving company to lose its
contract with the military because they hired scoundrels.
But just as suddenly as my anger had flared, it froze, for a
new thought crossed my mind: The men robbed you once. Why let them
rob you again?
I knew exactly who asked the question, and what He meant by
it. A subtle, nearly imperceptible change had occurred in me during
those weeks after our move. The pleasure I once received while
reading the Bible had nearly dried up. My prayers had become
superficial and rote and I had difficulty concentrating on the pastor’s
sermons at church. My anger was robbing me of something far more
valuable than what we’d lost to the movers.
This was one of those “A-ha!” moments. Light exploded in my
mind, breaking through the confusion. God was telling me that in just a
few weeks I’d become example number one of His warning about roots of
Forgiveness has never been easy for me. But at that moment I
realized that my willingness to forgive was crucial to my
continued spiritual growth. If Jesus forgave those who crucified Him,
can I do less when someone steals from me?
Forgiveness frees me to be at peace with God. It frees me to
hear from Him, move with Him, to imitate Him. Yet even as I write this,
I’m not sure I have forgiven the movers. Perhaps I’ve only fooled
myself into thinking I’ve forgiven them, when in reality I’ve simply
chosen not to hold a grudge.
I admit that’s not the same as forgiveness, but it’s a step in
the right direction. And I can only pray that my ability to really
forgive is the next step in my journey toward becoming more like Christ.
Being robbed once is bad enough. I won’t be robbed twice.
Richard Maffeo writes from Gig Harbor, Washington.