Lenten Devotional: March 16, 2021

Finding Forgiveness
by Angie Hahn

Luke 15:20-24: So he got up and went to his father. “.But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and to you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 

I’ll be honest; I’m not sure I’m a good candidate to write a Lent devotional for two reasons.  First, I’m not great with suspending science and plausibility, and can we agree that Easter demands of us that we believe in some pretty preposterous events and ideas? Second, I’m raging and hurt at the moment and probably as capable of suspending those feelings as I am my beliefs in explanations that make sense. Man, am I hurt and mad.  Here’s why.  

One morning this past week, I was getting ready to leave home for the day and, feeling fancier than usual, reached into my jewelry dish for a ring that I rarely wear – a heavy gold band that was my great-grandmother’s wedding ring.  To my horror, it was not where it was supposed to be and neither were my three other special rings, each prized more for its story than for its monetary value. Upon noticing that the rings weren’t there, I frantically looked in all the other places where they definitely would NEVER be, but COULD be, all the while screaming in my head the thing that I knew to be true:  He took them.

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

The “he” in this story is a family member with a drug addiction who has been in and out of treatment and sobriety over the past few years. If you have an addict in your family, you’ll know that stealing from family members, customers, from random people – this is part of it. I wish I did not know what to do in these circumstances — that we had no deep font of family knowledge for pawn shop brokerages and reacquisitions. But unfortunately my parents — who buried their only son after he overdosed on heroin three days following his release from a four-year prison sentence — were the obvious consultants.  Long story short, thanks to my husband’s persistence and the street smarts of an 80 year-old Baptist woman from Mississippi, we were able to reacquire three of the stolen rings.  

I’m glad to have recovered most of what my family member took, but this week has been hard.  There have been all the tortuous decisions to be made around whether or not to involve the police and let this family member face the consequences that he needs to face in order to get better, the difficult conversations with those other loved ones who are enabling his addiction, the boundaries that I’m still drawing and probably will be forever, the exposure of an old wound that I am surprised to learn still pulses with fresh ache, and the uncomfortable confrontation with my own racial and class privilege when realizing that if I or my family member were black, brown, and/or poor we likely would not even be afforded the luxury of these painful decisions or reactions. 

In the midst of all this, I have admittedly not felt Christ-like. I don’t particularly feel like forgiving or extending grace and I’m frankly pretty incensed that these responses come so readily from others in this addict’s life. Which brings me back to my chronic dilemma with Easter and with Christianity itself.  We Christians are so ostentatious with our beliefs, sometimes.  I mean, how privileged and self-important is the Easter story?  Our God sent his son down to earth to be temporarily human and when we killed him, he wouldn’t stay dead but instead popped back up for a reprise before finally ascending into the heavens with the promise that, we too, can have salvation if we believe the unbelievable?

I can tell you, though, about some other equally improbable things that I do know to be true. Even though they probably should have, my parents never gave up on my brother, never stopped loving him, never stopped responding to his calls, even when they were coming to them collect from a corrections facility. After burying their son, it would have been understandable if my parents had shut down and had no more room in their hearts for others who were engaging in similarly destructive behaviors.  But do you know what they did?  They sent canteen money to his friends in prison and welcomed others like him into their home.  

Why? How?  Well, I imagine it’s for the same reason that any of us continue loving after our hearts are broken, try again after the 100th failure, or forgive the unforgivable. I think it’s for the same reason that my own heart will eventually soften towards my family member who stole from me.  We do these improbable things because we have experienced the impossible, irrational grace of God, who has redeemed us through Jesus. 

I Praise You for This Resurrection Madness – Ted Loder


Lord of such amazing surprises

       as put a catch in my breath

          and wings on my heart,

I praise you for this joy,

      too great for words

      but not for tears and songs and sharing;

for this mercy

       that blots out my betrayals

           and bids me begin again,

                   to limp on,

                         to hop-skip and jump on,

                              to mend what is broken in and around me,

                                    and to forgive the breakers;

for this YES

      to life and laughter,

            to love and lovers,

                 and to my unwinding self;

for this kingdom

        unleashed in me and I in it forever,

             and no dead ends to growing,

                     to choices,

                           to chances,

                                 to calls to be just;

             no dead ends to living,

                    to making peace,

                        to dreaming dreams,

                             to being glad of heart;

for this resurrection madness

which is wiser than I

         and in which I see

              how great you are,

                     how full of grace.