A Lesson in Forgiveness from an Unlikely Source

Posted: March 16, 2014 in Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I love to write. I have loved writing since the fourth grade, and I specifically remember the day that the light came on and I realized the freedom that can come through the written word.  I have written more in the past eight months than I have in the past eight years, though you probably have not noticed. Most of the things I have written, Lord willing, will never see the light of day. I’ve written letters, an essay and several poems. Most of them express feelings in a way that I would never share publicly. I have struggled with an anger and a hatred that has burned within me at the very deepest part of my soul.  There have been days that I have been so upset that I would literally find myself shaking in my chair.  Prayer has helped. Scripture has convicted. But writing has been a great relief. I’ve been asking people to pray for me, and told a few close friends about my situation, but I have secretly become content in my anger, just nurturing it, and allowing it to simmer, with no desire to actually resolve it. I have lacked a heart of forgiveness. Today, I was listening to “Headlights” by Eminem and Nate Ruess (from Fun.) on my way home, and the words struck me: as a professing believer in Christ, who has placed all of my hope and faith into the Truth that God has forgiven me, and I should likewise forgive everyone who I feel has wronged me, I am more reluctant to forgive than Eminem, arguably the most angry man in the history of music.

If you are unfamiliar with his music, then you can take it upon yourself to do a Youtube search. If you cannot stomach vulgar language, find an edited version and don’t click on that link. There are about a dozen other disclaimers I should give; limit your searching. The song that is particularly referenced on this track is “Cleaning Out My Closet.”  This is a deep song that gives some background to themes of anger and frustration that are themes throughout most of Eminem’s music. You see the anger towards his “father” who left when he was a baby. You see frustration in his relationship with the mother of his daughter. And you see unbridled hatred toward the way that his mother raised him and baggage that he accuses her of placing upon his shoulders as a young man. He concludes his wrath filled bars by wishing that “she would burn in Hell” (I have cleaned up the language slightly.) This song was released in 2002, and was wildly popular, reaching #4 on the US Billboard charts.

Twelve years later, his tone has changed (well, his tone is still angry, but the words are very different). Maybe it is time. Maybe it is wisdom. Maybe he is experiencing a softening of his heart. None the less, in “Headlights”, he offers forgiveness to his mother, whom he had previously wished Hellfire upon. It’s an oddly touching song, and as gentle as the words may read, it is delivered with the anger that has clearly filled him his entire life:

But, Ma, I forgive you, so does Nathan, yo
All you did, all you said, you did your best to raise us both
Foster care, that cross you bear, few may be as heavy as yours
But I love you, Debbie Mathers, oh, what a tangled web we have

…And I’m mad I didn’t get the chance to thank you for being my Mom and my Dad

I’ve listened to this song probably a dozen times tonight. It’s angry. It’s Eminem. But I am very convicted. Jesus states in the Lord’s prayer “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Matthew 6:14-15]”  Paul reminds the Ephesians to be “…forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. [Ephesians 4:32]”  I have not had a heart of forgiveness. For my entire adult life, I’ve been hostile towards somebody that I should be very close to. We have been cordial, and at several times even seemed to be turning a corner to mend broken bridges. But time and time again, something happens and I add another check in the box of wrongs that I have tallied my entire life. My record of wrongs has slowly built up, and it has become a burden that I bear, and has become fuel for the fire of my anger.  Today, after much prayer and Scripture and thought, and a little push from Eminem, I’ve decided that for this burden, Christ died on the cross.  My sins against God have been heinous, and they have been many. It is not my responsibility to bear the burden for the sins and short comings of the man who has caused me my grief, but rather to direct him and others to the cross of Jesus Christ, who is our atonement, the Lamb of God. I thank you all for your prayers. Hopefully this will be a weight off of my shoulders. To conclude, I’ve decided to share with you one of the aforementioned poems that I have written as I have struggled these many months. God is faithful, even while we are not.

 Why, O God?

Why, O God, do you love me like you do?
When my brother fails me, I am ready to cut him off.
When my neighbor falls short, he is like the dead to me.
When my father misses the mark, I burn with anger.

Why, O God, do you love me like you do?
My patience burns like the life of a match,
While my anger thrives like a flame fueled by oil;
For this my forgiveness and love are but a teaspoon of water.

Why, O God, do you love me like you do?
Though I fail and though I hate, You pour Your grace upon me.
When I stumble and fear to fall, You lift me up and give me the Rock on which to stand.
I can’t imagine the love that you have, to see past my flesh, and for me, choose to die.


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