Forgiving ourselves

Wallpaper featuring Dan Fouts, Quarterback of the San Diego Chargedr from 1973-1987

Wallpaper featuring Dan Fouts, Quarterback of the San Diego Chargers from 1973-1987

On Saturday, August 23, I sat in my recliner after a busy week of ministry to watch my favorite professional football team, the New Orleans Saints, face the Indianapolis Colts in their 3rd preseason game.  The announcers for the game were Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts,who was providing the color, or expert, commentary.  Dan Fouts certainly qualifies as an expert in the game.  A pro football Hall of Fame member, Fouts threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns during his 15 years with the San Diego Chargers (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Fouts).

During the game, Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, underthrew a receiver late in the second quarter and the ball was picked off by the Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.  What surprised me about the play was not the interception, nor the underthrown ball, but Fouts’ reaction to it.  Fouts said that Andrew Luck would remember that throw, just as Fouts said he remembers every one of the 242 interceptions that he threw in his career.

I found it surprising that Fouts remembered the exact number of interceptions he threw and that he claimed to remember every one of those mistakes.  I wondered if he could remember the great plays and throws he made over the years and if he knew the the exact numbers of all the positive things he did in his career such as the many touchdowns and thousands of yards mentioned earlier.  My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Fouts could probably not remember all of the great throws and great moments he had to help San Diego have so many successful seasons.  I couldn’t help but wonder why it is the bad things that we remember rather than the good things.  Why is it so  hard for us to let our past go and forgive ourselves for our past mistakes, which are sometimes much worse than an interception in a football game?

The Bible is full of verses about God’s forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Micah 7:18-19 says “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  My favorite verse on forgiveness is Psalm 103:12, which reads “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” These are only a few of many bible verses about God’s forgiveness. So if God is willing to forgive us and remove our sins and mistakes from us, why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves and forget our mistakes?

I am reading a book by Adam Hamilton titled “Forgiveness:Finding Peace Through Letting Go.”  I am reading and studying it in preparation to use it as our fall study at Pine Ridge and Tangipahoa United Methodist Churches.  While studying and considering the content of the book, I discovered some unforgiveness in my own life and I am trying to let it go.  Who was the one I had to forgive the most? Myself!  I was still holding on to mistakes and regrets in my own life that were stumbling blocks to me personally and professionally.  Maybe that is why what Adam Hamilton calls the six hardest words to say (I am sorry; please forgive me) are in the first person tense.  Maybe that is why Dan Fouts remembers the 242 interceptions rather than the 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns.  Maybe if we are going to get serious about forgiveness, we need to start with forgiving ourselves and letting go of our mistakes.

Questions to consider:  When have you had a hard time forgiving yourself for past mistakes?  Why?  How did (or have you) made peace with those mistakes?  If God is willing to forgive us, why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves?

 

Fishing for People

 

This spring (2014), we used Adam Hamilton’s book and video study “The Way:Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus” as our Lenten study.  It was a good study and, by using the video, we got to see some of the places where Jesus walked and taught in the Holy Land.

One of the chapters focused on Jesus’ ministry near the Sea of Galilee, including the calling of his first disciples, who were fishermen. In the chapter and video, Adam Hamilton considers a question that I had long considered: why did Jesus choose fishermen to be his first disciples? These fishermen were probably coarse, uneducated, working class people.  They were not the kind of people that would have been my first choice if I had been Jesus.  I always thought that Jesus chose fishermen to show that God can use anyone, even the most unlikely persons, to help spread God’s word and kingdom. While that may be true, Adam Hamilton suggests that maybe Jesus chose fishermen because they are eternal optimists. Every fishermen must believe that this setting of the net, this cast, this spot is going to finally pay off, otherwise why go fishing at all.

I was thinking about that optimism of fishermen recently when I had the chance to go fishing for a few hours. It was a particularly unproductive trip. Oh, I caught a few fish, but for whatever reason the fish were not cooperating. I began to think that I should give it up, to came back and try again another day, but then I would make one more cast. “Why did I make this cast?” I asked myself. “Because” I answered “this could be the one. Maybe, just maybe, the big one will bite on this cast.” It was an overly optimistic thought because it had been an unproductive day (and I never caught the big one that day) but the only way to know was to make the cast, to give it a try, and see if the fish would cooperate.

How does this apply to the church, you’re probably asking. The church is called to be fishers of people, according to Matthew 4:19 “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people. (NIV)’”, to catch people for God and God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t been doing very well on it’s fishing trips recently. Almost all mainline denominations, including United Methodism, are declining, according to the statistics. Why might this be? Maybe it’s because we haven’t been fishing as often as we should. On our church’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PineRidgeTangipahoaUnitedMethodistChurches)  I recently posted a statistic from Back to Church Sunday (which will be participating in on September 21) that 73% of unchurched adults have never been invited to church. Another statistic is that only 2% of Christians EVER invite someone to church (http://backtochurch.com/about). If these statistics are correct, one reason the church is declining is because we are simply not going fishing enough. We are not being intentional enough about inviting our friends and family to church.

This is sobering news. But there is good news! Dr. Thom Rainer writes that “82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited” (http://backtochurch.com/about) So according to this statistic, if we invite people to church, there is better than a 4 in 5 chance they will attend! If we go fishing for people and invite them to come to church and to know Jesus, there is a good chance that we will catch some! I know, our world today is full of political correctness and tolerance. The last thing we want to do is offend someone. But what about God? How will they know the peace, love, mercy, forgiveness and joy of God unless we go fishing and invite them to come to church and to think about God. So I ask you, as I ask myself, when is the last time you went fishing for people? Invite an acquaintance, friend or family member to come to church with you. You never know, this could be the cast where you and I catch a person for God!