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Off the charts

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Psalm 103:8-12
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Luke 15:21-24
His son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!"

This absolute forgiveness and acceptance between two people happens maybe once or twice a lifetime, if that. Human forgiveness rarely measures up to what God does for us every day.

Lying with our son on his bed at 6 in the morning, I wonder how to respond to what he's done. Caught in a tangle of fearful thoughts he took a friend and our car and ran far away. Thousands of miles later, without his friend, struggling with his pride, he's back. Shaking with tears he lies there silent.

He has always craved hugs and lets me hug him now. I can pray a little, asking God to hold him too. I pray for his friend, who is in now in a far-off jail.

Our son is very angry with himself, but I know his impulsiveness could lead him to do something like this again. We want to teach him self-control and encourage him to make intelligent, ethical decisions. What can I say, what can I do?

When the weekend came we invited several of his best friends to a barbeque. We ate lots of food, and then we sat in a circle and talked about Marc. He had to sit there and listen. He was uncomfortable. He was embarrassed. His friends and family said the best things they knew about him, found all his good sides and named them, praised him in every way they knew.

That was the end of it. None of us will ever forget. Our son was dead and came alive again; he was lost and then found. There's no forgiveness like God's forgiveness, and for a few moments all of us felt just a touch, just a tiny taste of that enfolding acceptance.

It really doesn't get any better than that.

Lord, put the joy of your salvation in my words, in my laughter, in my eyes, in my heart.

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