As I get older, something claiming to be wisdom keeps intruding into parts of my life where opinions are born black and white, demanding that the gray of discerning grace settle over outrage in a calming insistence that I wait.
So often, we hear of some horrible event, and it demands that we root for the victim and curse the perpetrator, as portrayed by the one relating the awful occurrence. We want to rush to seek out cause and blame, that punishment and retribution may be parsed out.
More often than I’d like to admit, the moment I close my mouth after its issuing of my ‘considered’ opinion, more information comes out that either reverses who was really the victim and perp or that both were one or the other. The egg on my face tastes vaguely of some monstrous prehistoric ostrich. My personal opinion is that it goes rather well with the boiled sock lint left over from having my foot in my mouth.
I am slowly learning to wait in relative silence until I learn more, and even refusing to form an opinion on some things entirely. It isn’t easy, especially over controversial things when ‘everyone’ seems up in arms around me.
All too often, tragedies are exactly that. Everyone involved has had their lives altered beyond rebound. Even the guilty party is no longer the same. Sin has visited its poison upon all in the blast radius. Sadder still is when tragedy is due to accident, miscommunication, or simple overreacting.
Tragedy more often occurs under the banner of honest fallenness than malevolence. Both victim and perpetrator are equally fallen, equally made in God’s image, equally in need of grace. Yet, in the course of the tragedy, one walked away and the other did not. When I consider these things, my heart quakes, thanks God for keeping me out of such quagmires and delivering myself and others from the fruits of my own foolishness.
Sure, someone screwed up, big time, and punishment is appropriate. Yet, when it is administered, we must ask, is this a time to administer it with vindictiveness, or is it a time to administer it in grief and mourning, with sober respect for the added burden it places on the guilty party? Then, too, we must consider, the victim’s family are still dealing with the fallout, and the punishment, at best, serves merely as a mild emotional balm, yet does nothing to restore their loved one.
Repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation are the only true solutions accessible to us in times like these. Scars remain, permanently. Yet, holding on to the anger, guilt, and blame is only as healing as duct taping in place a knife remaining in the wound. It keeps cutting afresh, and offers no place for the blood to drain, allowing sickness and fever to fester in ugliness and pain.
Well should we bear in our minds the words of Gandalf to Frodo regarding the wretch Gollum, “Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment.”
The personal challenge in this deliberate move toward patience is in avoiding taking it too far to the point of apathy. There are evils that should enflame our hearts with rage, and there are those that should deflate them with grief, sorrow and regret. We would do well not to confuse them.