My name is Jerod Jordan. I am the minister serving the people of Spirit Lake Presbyterian Church in rural De Smet, S.D. Soon, I will be another year older, and I am thankful to God for every day that I am blessed to experience. Recently, a song was released without a great deal of fanfare and excitement. The name of the song is “The Older I Get” by Alan Jackson. This song has become for me a beautiful reminder of the extraordinary blessing that life, with all of its problems and imperfections, truly is. It is my theme song for this particular time in my life.
I can especially connect with the line, “I don’t mind all the lines from all the times I’ve laughed and cried, souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived.” My face shows every hour that I have spent working in the sun, every time I have laughed at a good friend’s story and every time I have cried over my own struggles or watched helplessly as someone else struggles and suffers through their own pain, grief or loss. This song puts into words sentiments and feelings that are sometimes very difficult to express, at least for me. The truth that is expressed within these very simple lyrics were for me an epiphany. Epiphany is a word which simply means “a sudden realization of a great truth.”
Another epiphany for me was also how very powerful and important forgiveness is to all of us. Not only to the one being forgiven, but the one extending forgiveness. Author and speaker Andy Andrews reports that Abraham Lincoln said that forgiveness is worthless until it is given away. “I will now and forevermore silently offer my forgiveness even to those who do not see that they need it. I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.”
Forgiving a sin committed to us frees us from the power of resentment and hate. Very often, the most difficult person for any of us to forgive is the person behind the face reflecting back at us in the mirror. Jesus died so that forgiveness may abound. If I am unable to forgive myself, am I not saying that my sin is capable of superseding Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? When considered in that context, not being able to forgive myself is offensive. Forgiveness is not to be abused as a license to sin. Forgiveness abused as a license to sin is what theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace.” Costly grace is when my behavior is changed out of a grateful response to grace, rather than a works-based sense of righteousness. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgive others. Forgive yourself.
I encourage you to look at the book “Mere (basic) Christianity” by CS Lewis. One statement from this remarkable author that was an epiphany to me due to its conservation of line (the ability to say in a few words what others would require volumes to express) is this, and I close with this statement of great and profound truth dealing with God’s love and forgiveness:
“God does not love us because we are good; We are good because God loves us.” — CS Lewis