On forgiveness

Steve Diehl writes in this morning’s Fruit of the Vine about a poster in a computer programming class he took years ago: “‘To err is human, but if you really want to mess things up it takes a computer.’ Of course it was a play on the famous quote from the English poet Alexander Pope’s 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism part 2, in which he wrote, ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’”

I know what it feels like to be forgiven. When I was ten years old, my dad entrusted me with driving his brand new pickup truck down a narrow alley between two warehouses at the fertilizer plant where he worked. I adjusted the seat while he demonstrated how to work the clutch, and then he ran inside to load up the forklift and meet me at the other end with the load intended for the back of the truck. Except I didn’t get to the other end. On the way there, a sharp turn to avoid a stack of pallets got mixed up with my as-yet-undeveloped sense of depth perception, and I plowed into the side of one of the buildings. I didn’t die in that accident. But I suspected I might die. The passenger-side headlight was smashed. I’d knocked off the mirror. There was a deep gouge in the shiny paint on the truck’s right front fender.

My dad must have heard what happened because by the time I got out of the vehicle, he was already running toward me. I wanted to explain, but I didn’t get to. He hugged me. He said he was glad I wasn’t hurt. And he gave me permission to not say anything about what had happened to my mother. As it turns out, that last part wasn’t necessarily for my protection. But still, that feeling. A weight lifted. The freedom to breathe again. It was good.


Steve reminds us that “forgiveness is not something we make happen.” And I’m convinced that’s why it feels so good. We cannot free ourselves. “God made forgiveness happen.... We are just catching up to what God has already done.” Technically, we don’t free others either, but in forgiving them, we give them a glimpse of the freedom God has provided for all of us. Together.

Steve offers this prayer: “Lord, please help me to not rely upon myself, or my own ideas about forgiveness, but to learn from you.”

And I offer this: Take a breath wherever you are right now, and celebrate the freedom that God has given you to start over, to try again, to live.

Eric Muhr