Karen was taking Karis to church. She backed out, but did not see Gabriel’s car parked behind the other van. The small Nissan was no match for the Suburban, and the front right bumper was messed up pretty bad. Karen used her cell phone to call inside. She was crying. I came out quickly, surveyed the damage, and told Karen to head for church. “What about Gabriel’s car?” she asked. “We’ll be home before he sees it. I will explain it to him,” I assured her.
Wrong. Erikka saw the damage and asked Gabriel what happened. When he looked at it, he was angry and kicked the garage. He prided himself in keeping the car looking good. Maybe too much.
I walked into the study to find Gabriel sitting silently. “Sorry, Gabriel,” I said. “Get an estimate and I will pay for it.” Mom then found Gabriel as he was on the way out and added her apology.
About a minute later, after Gabriel had left, he called and said to Mom, “It’s okay; it’s only a car.” Then a minute after that he called me and said, “Pray for me. I don’t know what’s happening.” He was sobbing. He had to pull over because he couldn’t see. I responded, “I know what’s happening. You just passed your test, and you sense God’s presence.” He answered, “Just last night Kyle said that the devil would go after us at our weakest point. Mine has been Mom.” “You won the fight,” I said. “Way to go.”
Then Gabriel added, “Thanks for not getting mad at me when I messed up your car.” He was leaving church about five years before on a wintry Minnesota day with icy conditions. He tried to turn in the parking lot to miss the oncoming car, but the old wagon wouldn’t cooperate, causing about $3000 damage to our car and aggravating the passenger in the other car–a bride pulling up for her wedding!
I reminded Gabriel that when I was sixteen I borrowed another wagon, a 1960 Chevrolet. When dropping friends off, I pulled into their driveway and scraped one whole side on a metal picket fence. My friend Johnny jumped out and said, “Doesn’t look good, Paul.” I responded, “Thanks, Johnny.” When I walked into the kitchen and handed my father the keys, I said, “I messed up the car.” My dad’s response was, “It’s bound to happen sooner or later.” He didn’t go outside to check it out, nor did he ever bring it up again. His response made me feel more important to him than metal.
He gave me forgiveness. I was able to pass on forgiveness to Gabriel, and Gabriel gave it to his mother. It started with a kind and understanding father, whose godly response bore fruit forty-four years later in his grandson. Three lessons:
- Granting forgiveness releases power. Gabriel was overwhelmed by the Spirit after doing something difficult. One of the ways God expresses His holiness is in His forgiveness. We don’t deserve it, but God in His mercy grants it.
- On the other hand, not forgiving puts us in bondage. Gabriel would never have felt such a profound release if he chose not to forgive. We withhold forgiveness to get even with others for hurting us, and we end up hurting ourselves. We put ourselves in prison, behind emotional walls. You get the choice: withhold forgiveness and stay in prison or grant forgiveness and receive the mercy of God. Forgiveness is a great gift to give to someone who has hurt you!
- My father’s forgiveness influenced three generations, potentially more. Sin costs a lot; obedience counts a lot!