As you know, I’ve been doing lots of miles lately on the road. So I thought it interesting that recently it was in Mildenhall and then Beck Row (on the same trip) that I saw two near car accidents. In both cases the ‘offending’ drivers had no idea (it seemed to me) that they were going to crash into another car. In both cases it was the driver of the ‘other car’ that saw the impending crash and took evasive action. Both these drivers were ‘in the right’ – an accident would definitely have not been their fault – but who wants an accident to prove they’re right? (And I think that the law takes a slightly different view any-way.) It reminded me of a cartoon show when I was very young – Mr Magoo – about an elderly man who was very short sighted who drove his car and traveled through life oblivious to the chaos and destruction he caused around him. Simply put, Mr Magoo should have lost his license long ago!
It made me wonder in all the driving I’ve done, whether I’ve done something similar. Have I caused chaos and destruction in my wake and driven on without a care in the world? I would hope not. But who’s to say? The point is that unless we somehow register that we’re doing wrong, we won’t know, and worse, we’ll keep doing it.
It can be hard to admit we’re wrong. We’ll do it of course however often the admission comes with qualifications the worst being ‘he/she/they made me do it’. We hope people grow out of such childish denial quickly! Perhaps that is why in the Compline Service at the end of the day (LSB p.253-259) we have the threefold admission: ‘I have sinned in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault’ which is sometimes accompanied by three thumps (gently!) on our chest. Even here we might not be fully aware of what we’ve done – sins committed, good deeds omitted, laziness, slackness, and shame and how it has affected those around us. It is both hard to hear and hard to say but we need at times to hear what our sinful behaviour has done to others.
The criminal in the dock doesn’t have the sole proprietary rights to the story of the crime. It is the judge’s task to finally say what has happened – and hear he/she listens to the victim – and then to declare what is to happen in terms of the consequences.
Thus God’s Word and those around us play an important role in bringing us an awareness of ourselves and what we’ve done. The wonder, joy and power of the absolution in the Com-pline Service and of reconciliation and forgiveness between people means that, in Christ, we commit to live the reconciliation and mercy given to us. These words are powerful – because they offer and give new beginnings, new starts (because God says so!) – and because they give the penitent the strength to ‘drive better tomorrow’. Saying ‘sorry’ and ‘I forgive you’ are words that can change lives and they are always more than words too. — GS