Am I Going the Wrong Way?
Brian Entwistle of Taipei, Taiwan
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. -James 3:13, 17-18
We had flown into Portland, Oregon, USA, at 10:00 p.m. We rented a car and drove to Eugene. As we drove into the city, I chose a street I thought was the correct way to go. There were no other vehicles on the street. No mistakes. No errors. All seemed to be A-OK until a blue light flashed behind us. As the police officer approached our car, I wondered what I had done. “Sorry,” he said, “but you’re going the wrong way. You’re driving on a one-way street. Driver’s license, please.”
While I searched for my license, I imagined myself going to court and being fined. I felt totally embarrassed. I gave him my international driver’s license. He examined it, told me he had never seen a license like that and needed to call his supervisor. Shortly, he returned the license and said he was told to forgive us but to direct us to a safe, two-way street.
We all make mistakes, and there are people who condemn us for our mistakes. “You should have known better!” “What were you thinking?” were two of the condemnations I made about myself that night. I had to remember that this police officer had not only headed us the right direction, but had also forgiven me.
That police officer has probably forgotten the incident. I haven’t. In comparison to other mistakes this was only a mild disruption to my life. When I have been verbally condemned, the only real issue is not revenge or ending my relationship with the abuser, but rather forgiving the abuser and myself. Such incidences can become “unfinished business” which affect our relationships, our spirituality, and may lead to physical deterioration, or worse-particularly when one cannot forgive and forget one’s mistakes.
Forgiveness is a two-way street. Forgiveness is not as much about the other person as it is about me. Without forgiveness it is as though I am traveling a one-way street with only myself to “police” my thoughts, my actions, my spiritual and physical health, and my present condition. Forgiveness transforms me from disruptive and destructive separation to a “safe pathway” of peacefulness and healing for a troubled soul, not only for the other, but also, and just as importantly, for me.
“Awake, my soul!” (Psalm 57:8 NRSV)
The Prayer of the Heart
Early Christian disciples desired to take seriously the scripture mandate to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The prayer of the heart invites us to pray “continuously” by repeating and returning to a prayer phrase planted for intentional reflection and deepening. Choose a word or phrase (from scripture, hymnody, or personal reflection) that has meaning for you. The Jesus Prayer is one form of the prayer of the heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:35-43). Invite this simple phrase to repeat in your heart throughout the day, awakening your soul to God’s presence.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.