“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:23-24 NASB
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” ― Benjamin Franklin.
I am sorry. The three hardest words. Sometimes I weasel, squirm and look down with comments like, “I made a mistake.” Or “I had a headache.” “I was under stress.” “I’m dealing with this shame-thing.” No. I’m a very flawed human being getting a lot of practice saying, “I’m sorry.”
When my son was about five years old and zooming about on his new bike, showing off to his friends, he shot out in front of a car. The car screeched to a halt just a hair away from my son. My son tumbled to the gravel road. Heart pounding with “God help me” circling in my mind. I ran toward him, jerking his arm almost out of his socket, the driver shaking terribly, I yelled at my son. What I yelled; I don’t remember. It was awful. Adrenaline pumping, shaking and out of control, I mumbled an apology to the driver who was overcome too. Every parent and driver’s nightmare! Throwing (almost) my son in his room and slammed the door, tears raced down my face. Thoughts of horror consumed me. Slowly, God’s grace, peace and wisdom replaced my hysteria.
“I’m sorry.” To my son. Yes, he was wrong. I was too. Out of control and fearful. Does a five-year-old understand grown-up hysterics? No. I’m sorry. Hugs. Tears. And grounded him from his bike after discussing the event with him.
I’ve said I’m sorry to my ex-husband. I said those words to my dying husband. I’ve said those words to employees and clients. I’ve said them to me! I’ve said them to my father in heaven. I still owe “I’m sorry” to others. No excuses. No rationalizations. No denial. No perky gifts or flowery cards. No sugar-coating.
Second hardest three words: “Will you forgive me?” Some do. Some don’t. Some will never forgive. Forgiving yourself is a terrific start. Then I give it to our father. He perfectly resolves the heartache. May take a long, long time and practice.
Feelings are not dependable in making apologies or restitution. They may muck up and cloud the whole affair. God said, “Be still and feel that I am God.” No, he didn’t. He said, “know.” And when we know, we know.
Zacchaeus said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8). Sometimes we Black Sheep types need to pay back with interest along with our three hardest words. Actions speak louder than the three hardest words.
Thank you for being quick to forgive and without punishment. Help us to forgive ourselves, others and move forward to better relationships with our families and communities. If we have robbed, help us to replace with interest. If we have demeaned or diminished another, let us reflect and restore. If we have hurt ourselves, help us to heal.