My husband, Gary, and I were new to our church when we volunteered to man the information desk for the annual Fall Festival. The night was a success, and we enjoyed meeting many new people, both church members and visitors, all seeking a fun night out with family and friends. After the event, we decided to stay and help with the cleanup. While most of the event was outside the church, our Fellowship Hall was used for dining. This is where we stepped in to help with the stacking of chairs, wiping down of tables, and vacuuming. At one point, I was asked by someone organizing the cleanup to retrieve a dustpan and broom from the janitor’s closet. Here is where the night took a turn for the worse.
I returned with the item and then got back to work helping stack chairs. Soon after this, I, again, made the walk down the hall towards the janitor’s closet, this time heading for the water fountain to get a quick drink. As I got closer, I saw there were many people gathered around the area outside the closet as well as someone working in the closet. Upon getting closer, I quickly understood the issue being addressed. Someone had spilled a can of paint in the closet, and it was seeping out under the door and onto the newly-installed carpet in the hall! As I got my drink and headed back down the hallway, I started thinking. Then, I noticed footprints of paint heading from the closet towards the Fellowship Hall, the same route I had walked two times now. Only then did I look down at my feet to see what I was afraid I might: paint on the side of my boots.
This realization hit me like a kick in the stomach. I was responsible for the spilled paint that was now spreading out onto the new carpet! The footprints down the hall were of my feet! My shoes, covered with paint, told the story very clearly; I was guilty. Although I knew I did not create this mess on purpose, a mess had been made! My jumping in to clean up after the event seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help!
In situations where our honesty will test the strength of a relationship or put us face to face with the consequences of our actions, our flesh may very well tempt us to hide the truth or at least to temper it with our audience. Our flesh certainly does not welcome being corrected, rejected, ridiculed, or judged. It will encourage us to avoid these situations at all costs, even if it means lying or hiding an important truth.
God’s Word says the opposite. Ephesians 4:25 teaches this very clearly. “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (NKJV)
When we “mess up” or fall short of His standards, the only choice that stands true to our Christian faith is to fess up and then clean up. When something is hidden, we are not able to do the necessary work to clean it up. Cleanup may be as simple as a sincere apology or may require some form of restitution to the injured party. Just as in the natural world, oftentimes, we cannot see clearly what needs to be cleaned up while in the dark. As we face the whole truth about a situation and bring it into the light, God will make it clear what the necessary steps are to set things right.
As I finished my walk down the hall, in my paint-covered shoes, I resolved to do what I knew was right, even though it felt hard and even a bit scary.
I stepped into the Fellowship Hall and headed straight towards the man in charge of our church maintenance. I do not know if he noticed my paint-covered shoes before my words came spilling forth, but I confessed fully and awaited his reply.
Now, we find ourselves looking at the other side of this situation. What is the appropriate response to mistakes, and, dare I say, sin when we find ourselves face to face with our offender? When a repentant heart is evident, even when the bearer also brings a boat-load of yuck with their confession, there is only one appropriate response: Forgiveness.
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 NLT
Thankfully, this is the response I received. The person to whom I confessed showed zero frustration or annoyance and graciously received my apology. As I later reflected on this experience, I was reminded of the One who provided us with the perfect example of forgiveness.
Jesus demonstrated unfathomable forgiveness as he awaited His last breath on the cross, forgiving those instrumental in His imminent death. “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34 NKJV
And here, at this same cross, we are able to receive the forgiveness provided for us, past, present, and future. From this place of wholeness, we can lavishly extend forgiveness to those who offend and hurt us. How can we not, when we look at Him who gave it all?
Featured Image by @johnephotography