My father taught me many things. I was the youngest of four. By the time I was born, my parents had been married a while and were pretty well established. I don’t remember living anywhere but in the middle class suburban neighborhood where I grew up. Before I was born and up until I was two years old, my family lived in the outskirts of the city of Buffalo in New York state. There was one family car at that time and my dad worked long hours as an auto mechanic. The long hours didn’t change when they moved to what I call my hometown, but most everything else had. We had two cars, I had my own bedroom in a well built house with a large fenced yard, and on birthdays and Christmas there were piles of presents.
But I digress.
My dad taught me how to hammer a nail so it would go straight into a piece of wood. He taught me how to mix cement and use that cement to build brick walls. He taught me how to throw a curve ball. He taught me how to check oil, pump gas, put air in tires, and patch a tube. (Back then many tires had inner tubes) I learned how to fix a broken bike chain and also how to keep it oiled. I knew how to tighten screws and how to read what size screwdriver I would need to do the job. I learned how to paint a shingled house, the right way to climb up and down a ladder, and how to pull shingles off a roof and put new ones on. I don’t ever remember a repairman coming to our house; my dad knew how to do everything–even difficult and dangerous jobs involving gas lines and electrical lines.
As I have grown older, I have seen more and more of my dad in me. My dad had very few friends and didn’t believe he needed anymore. Oh, he could carry on a conversation if my very outgoing mom invited folks over, but he never looked forward to those types of things. He wasn’t socially awkward–he just felt if he wasn’t working at his business or on a home project then he should be able to relax and be left alone. I remember one time some people from the church came by as they were out Christmas caroling. My dad didn’t want to open the door. I may or may not have done something like this in my adulthood… I watched my dad do life alone for the most part and since by nature I was very much an introvert, I resisted my mom’s attempts to socialize me with all the other kids at church. I didn’t fit in anyway and I was fine being alone or with one friend.
Another area I have noticed teaching from my dad is in the area of forgiveness. My dad could hold a grudge like no one else. My mom would get so angry when he refused to go to something they were invited to because at some point in the past, someone there had ticked my dad off and he never forgot it. There could have been years that had passed since the time of the offense, but my dad could remember every detail of what happened and would use the incident to his advantage. I, too, am really, REALLY good at holding grudges.
This morning, for example, I woke up in a pretty bad mood. Of course it is a Sunday and although we had originally planned to skip church, we went because we had arranged to drop something off with someone there. I wasn’t even out of Buffalo when some driver got in front of me doing ten miles an hour UNDER the speed limit. Seriously? Then, since this was only our third Sunday in attendance at church since May AND the church has been meeting in a new place all summer, I turned at the wrong spot. I could see the parking lot where I wanted to be, but nothing connected to it. Cutting through a parking lot, I hit a speed bump a little too fast causing my husband to border on being quite upset with me for nearly killing the car. By the time I got to church, I didn’t want to see anyone let alone talk to anyone. As I sat there waiting for the service to start, my mind’s attention was diverted to a few issues I have been having with church and some people. I pulled out my phone, signed onto Facebook and promptly updated a status about being extremely crabby and wishing I had stayed in bed. All this while worship music, designed to focus my attention on God, was playing in the auditorium.
Now, if anyone even reads this and is ready to blast me with Bible verses about forgiveness or wants to scold me because this is not how I should treat others, please don’t. You see, I already know those things. I know what Jesus told the disciples about forgiving your enemy “seventy times seven times”. I know what Jesus said about “loving your neighbor”. In short, I know this is a wrong attitude and it is one I really need to let go of. I believe God is wanting me to learn to let go of past hurts, to learn to not hold grudges. After all, if God held a grudge against me every time I did something that didn’t please Him, well, I certainly couldn’t ever believe that he loves me. The problem, of course, is old habits die hard. A bit of a cliché yet so much truth there. I can’t will myself to unlearn what I saw modeled for me for years and what I have practiced since I can remember. If giving up sin was that easy, I think none of us would need the power of God to help us day in and day out. To me, living without grudges seems like a lot of work if not completely impossible. I heard, though, that God works in the impossible.
I think the bigger issue is do I want to learn to let it go? Will it make a difference in my relationship with others and with God? Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to be well. I believe he is posing that same question to me right now…do I want to learn to let God take care of my hurts and disappointments or do I want to continue to seek revenge for what I have perceived as mistreatment?
I think I have some thinking to do.