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Forgiveness -- a Beach Perspective

We were very blessed years ago for Dean to be stationed in Hawaii for almost 8 years – allowing us to live in paradise and experience all the wonders the islands have to offer. Living on an island with majestic mountains, crystal clear water, pristine beaches, fragrant flowers, beautiful Hawaiian music, and perfect weather, you learn to look at things with a different perspective. An expectation of beauty.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I am really into exploring new perspectives to see how they can reveal things I might totally miss if I keep my mind closed to what else is out there. This habit can be exercised in many ways: physically (geographic perspective depending on where your eyes are looking), mentally (different perspectives may offer insight that helps solve a problem), emotionally (is this situation really all about me, or can I let that go and see it from a less personal view?), just to name a few. One of the most interesting ways to explore perspectives is to experiment with what you “see” in your surroundings.

I’m one of those people who loves to see shapes (faces, animals, etc.) in clouds and other weird places (like in the marbled tile on the floor). I love asking Dean if he can see the shapes I see – often he can, but sometimes he sees something totally different. Then I try to see it from his perspective, and sometimes it changes my view.

We had a shared perspective event a few days ago that was the catalyst for this blog…

We’re back in Hawaii this week for a conference. When we come here, we try to stay on Texas time rather than subjecting our bodies to a 5-hr time zone shift. This means that we’re awake and up around 4 a.m. – even earlier for the first 2-3 mornings. We go out and take a walk through Waikiki until 5 (when Starbucks opens, where we get breakfast). We take our breakfast to a park overlooking the beach and wait for the sunrise. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet because very few people are out. And it’s very, very peaceful.

One morning, we were leaving the park before sunset, and there was a beach cleaner out smoothing the sand. He had made 2-3 passes near the sidewalk and was slowly making his way toward the water. (If you’ve never seen a beach cleaner, think Zamboni for sand…or just look at the picture above.) I asked Dean if he remembered the first time we ever saw a beach cleaner in Destin, Florida. While I was marveling at the idea that the beaches get combed, Dean offered his perspective:

You know, it’s like all the footprints that cover the beach are the sins we’ve done. Then God forgives us and wipes those sins away just like that machine smooths the sand and makes it clean.”

What a beautiful mental picture…God wiping our sins away. But then I thought, “Yes, but then people will walk on this groomed sand and mess it up.” And the truth and gravity of that thought hit home. Yes, we sin. We ask for forgiveness, and God forgives us when we ask and repent. Knowing He will forgive does not give us permission to do it again, but we’re human. We mess up...again. And God forgives us…again. The beauty of our forgiven soul is smooth as the sand, as white as snow…until we step on it. It is a humbling picture of our brokenness and God’s grace to put us back together.

Dean’s comment and the mental picture was beautiful, but something wasn’t quite right. I’ve let this sit in my head for several days trying to discern why…listening for God to say, “Here’s your answer”…

We walked along the beach again, but this time there was no beach cleaner…only the soft light of streetlamps that lit the path and barely reached as far as the water’s edge. Then I saw it…the waves gently lapping up on the beach as the tide receded. With each wave coming ashore and rolling back into the water, there was fresh, smooth sand left behind.

This was the picture of God’s forgiveness.

The ocean tide rises and falls, without fail, twice a day. Every time the tide recedes, the sand left behind is perfectly smooth with no footprints or signs of human touch. God’s forgiveness is nothing like the beach cleaner, which can break down or miss a swath of beach. God’s forgiveness is eternal, and He gives it to us by His choice because of His unconditional love for us.

But what about the beach cleaner? The way I see it (from this perspective in my mind that has changed multiple times over the past few days), the beach cleaner is the giving of forgiveness by us, and the footprints in the sand are not only ours, but the things others have done that we need to forgive. We are the driver of the beach cleaner. We alone can decide how long those footprints will stay on our beach.

We turn the key, step on the gas, and as the machine moves forward, we smooth away bits of the anger and negative feelings as we let go of the hurts and wrongs onto which we have held. The more passes we make, the smoother our thoughts become, and peace replaces the bitterness. As we drive, we steer around some of the footprints, not quite able (but really just unwilling) to forgive that person or (closer to home) ourselves. We need to recognize that we don’t have to wait for the person who hurt us or our feelings to ask for forgiveness. We are 100% in control of whether we do or do not forgive them. Withholding our forgiveness does absolutely nothing to that person, but it steals our peace daily. However, letting go – forgiving others AND forgiving ourselves, frees us to enjoy the now doubly-smoothed mind-beach – forgiven by God and forgiven by us.

And that is the most peaceful piece of mind.

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