This much I know: I absolutely HATE being ‘chumped.’
In my book, it’s the unforgiveable sin—for someone to take advantage of my good nature, or to fail to take a matter as seriously as I do.
Although I’m working to amend this defect of character (among others), last weekend I received a reminder that I have a ways to go. My spirit can still spin quickly out of balance if I happen to experience a perceived indignity or personal affront.
That’s true even in situations where I’m making a conscious effort to walk in God’s grace—as I was at the beginning of our Kairos Weekend at Menard.
We’d just wrapped up our opening session with the inmate participants on Thursday evening, and the team was exiting the prison. Following protocol, we team members turned in our volunteer badges…and then retrieved our driver’s licenses (and other personal items) from the storage lockers nearby. Only when I got to the team’s shared locker, my license was missing.
Now, understand this:
- I am 100% certain that my license was IN the locker when we’d entered the prison a couple of hours before, because you can’t get your volunteer badge without presenting a photo ID…nor can you enter the prison with anything in your pockets.
- There was a frenetic energy among my teammates as we prepared to leave for the evening. The guys were listening, but not really. Several had launched rogue missions to expedite the exit. Within a few short minutes, our well-oiled team had devolved into something resembling the proverbial herd of cats.
- Unless my license turned up after this frenzied free-for-all, I was facing a three-hour round-trip home to secure my passport as a substitute ID…in order to re-enter the prison in the morning. (Not to mention the post-retreat hassle of having to obtain a replacement license.)
So as you’d expect, we did our best to work the problem: Two times…as we gathered on the parking lot outside the visitors entrance…and once more before dinner in the Methodist church fellowship hall…we begged the team members to check their pockets for my license. But each time, the hunt turned up empty (as had a thorough scouring of the lockers and trash cans inside the visitors entrance at the prison.)
With each fruitless search, a righteous rage ratcheted up another notch inside me. While many teammates shared my concern over the missing ID, others were (at least in my opinion) treating the situation rather cavalierly. Especially since the circumstances suggested that one (or more) of them was the likely culprit.
Sure, on some level, it was irrational – but I couldn’t help feeling that somebody had been chumped in the license distribution process…and that somebody was me.
Fortunately, I was spared the three-hour round trip when someone remembered that we had a late-arriving teammate…who could be asked to swing by my house and pick up my alternate ID. Thank heaven for small favors, I thought – even as I continued to steam about the teammates nearby who were, I suspected, the cause of my distress.
Come Friday morning, the re-entry routine proceeded without further incident. I presented my passport, obtained my volunteer badge and walked toward the storage lockers…when out of the corner of my eye, I recognized a familiar face – my face – on the driver’s license in the palm of a teammate’s hand.
‘TJ,’ I said, ‘that looks an awful lot like my license.’
With that, he donned his spectacles and said, ‘Wow – guess I should have put on my glasses when I was checking my wallet last night!’
* * *
They say God has a sense of humor, and I suppose God must – because as it happened, I was scheduled to read these words to the Kairos participants later in the day:
‘Lord, if my brother keeps sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him, seven times?’
In the end, for our own sake, and in obedience to the Lord, we make the decision to forgive, even when we are boiling with anger.
God can change our hearts about the people we hold in unforgiveness. I know that, because He’s changed mine…
Imagine that: Being asked to read – and called to live – these words of forgiveness, all within the span of a few hours.
It’s the kind of hint even a chump like me couldn’t miss.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.