Recollections & Forgiveness
“Rock of Ages tell me where does it stand. Are we bound for the Promised Land? Bless my soul, I ain’t ready to die. And my future is in your hands. Mister Rock of Ages you’ve been goin’ on strong since time began, til time is done, and so the tide shall run.” ~Gordon Lightfoot~
The past is what it is—a collection of moments dispatched to a place where memories grow like mushrooms. We all carry around remnants from other times and places—whispers that echo down through the years.
There are deep recesses within that house yesterday’s newsreels and snapshots. It’s exactly the same for everyone on planet earth: Good snippets are shelved along with the bad—fair and foul recollections coexist side by side. The choice as to what to do with the gallery of memory is always ours to make. Some stay balanced by dealing with the bad stuff in a healthy manner—they put brokenness and bitterness behind them to move forward in grit and grace.
Others are forever fixated on the negative because they enjoy playing the victim—or they possess a false hope that current circumstances can be changed by repairing the past. In this they are tragically mistaken.
What’s done is done—the past cannot be adjusted or fixed. Those who continually sort through the garbage are destined to treadmill their way through life experiencing one self-inflated drama after another.
We all have emotional wreckage rattling around within. Here’s wisdom gleaned from experience: Those pieces from bygone days that produce smiles are to be treasured—we should nurture every one that makes us warm and fuzzy.
However, those fragments that are hurtful should remain untouched. Nothing is ever gained in picking at scars to transform them into scabs that ooze poisonous pus. The need for inner healing is an ever-present reality. Forgiveness releases the supernatural balm which results in ongoing restoration and spiritual equilibrium. There’s nothing magic about forgiveness, but there’s definitely something mysterious in how it works.
Forgiveness has redemptive power. It can transform situations and perspectives. Forgiveness can radically alter the human heart because it is rooted in the immutable character of God—the One who Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot referred to as Mister Rock Of Ages.
We all want forgiveness but giving it is a whole other matter, but not really. Like it or not—comprehend it or not—forgiveness is a quid pro quo deal. A first-century carpenter was transparently clear about the issue. Jesus of Nazareth tied an unbreakable knot around receiving forgiveness and our willingness to grant forgiveness. While teaching about prayer he said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
If that’s at all ambiguous or murky, consider how Eugene Peterson renders these verses in The Message: “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”
The onus is always on the individual—no one can escape that reality. To realize the redemptive hope of forgiveness and live in its health-giving wholeness, one must freely give forgiveness.
Gratitude & Purpose
“Rock of Ages you’ve got nothing to hide. Got no ego, got no pride. Bless my soul, let me do what I can for my future is in your hands. Mister Rock of Ages, the lord of my lease. In times of toil and times of peace until my song shall cease. Mister Rock of Ages, I’m a part of you now. I am yours, you belong to me. Bless my soul, let me do what I can for my future is in your hands.” ~Gordon Lightfoot~
Gordon Lightfoot’s Dream Street Rose was released by Warner Brothers in 1980. I snapped it up hot off the press merely because I happened to drop into Records On Wheels on Queen Street in Sault Ste. Marie the day it arrived.
I hadn’t discovered Lightfoot on my own—my sister Janice was bonkers about him, and made sure everyone was aware of his songs. In an aside shout out—Janice happens to turn thirty-nine for the umpteenth time this week. I am mathematically challenged, but I’m fairly certain that when those numbers are added together, in the words of our Grandma Major, “She’s pretty gall-darned old.” But I digress. As I recall, upon first hearing Dream Street Rose way back then, I wasn’t too thrilled with Mister Rock Of Ages, the ninth cut on the album—it got under my skin because it stirred up matters of the heart. There was lots of junk floating around inside me—I was in a downward spiral of self-destruction.
I wanted nothing to do with God—I needed no reminders of his goodness or sovereignty, but was ambushed by the lyrics of a song. The rhythm and rhyme of Mister Rock Of Ages caught my attention—the phrasing and focused imagery hammered my conscience. A pounding conviction came out of nowhere to nail me down and force me to confront the churning chaos of my not so quiet desperation.
I was in the midst of a persistent lost weekend, and it’d take years for me to discover a way out. Brokenness was in me and I didn’t even know it—I was entirely unaware that interior gashes and gouges suffered in adolescence were seeping toxins that distorted my perspective and attitude. With a nod to Hank Williams, Jr. I was whiskey bent and hell bound. Messed up bigtime I had issues with God—I was mad-dog angry with him. I routinely cussed him out—I wanted to be left alone to stew and grouse while repeatedly tearing open the never to be forgotten wounds. God was at fault, and I had no intention of ever forgiving him.
It was so much more satisfying to endlessly rehash the wrongs of the past. There was a misguided madness in me—the ashes of yesterday were constantly and systematically sifted through to determine the magnitude of God’s offenses. Doing so provided the necessary excuse for me to never have to take responsibility for the state of my life.
One can never know what the Creator will use to plant seeds—he is perpetually in the business of sowing mercy and acceptance. There must have been a sliver of good soil in my heart because while spinning Dream Street Rose on the turntable I found myself replaying Mister Rock Of Ages. It somehow softened me and got me meditating about the stuff of eternity: Mister Rock of Ages, the lord of my lease, in times of toil and times of peace, until my song shall cease.
It was a tiny, even minuscule beginning, but it moved me along a path which would ultimately take me to the end of myself. God, in his majestic grace, was tracking me down. He found me at my point of need—his love lifted me with an unrestrained fierceness. Now, decades later, on solid footings of faith, the wonder of the adventure is truly amazing.
As a recipient and beneficiary of everlasting forgiveness, God continues to be at work in and around me. Yesterday is gone. Today is an endless opportunity to make a difference. Tomorrow waits to be seized. Day by day I endeavor to live in gratitude and purpose, fueled by the marvelous joys of the journey.
Bless my soul, let me do what I can, for my future is in your hands . . .