“It’s sad, so sad (so sad)
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word”
~Bernie Taupin, Elton John
You can’t swing a cat in a crowded subway station these days without hitting an offender. By “offender,” I mean someone who has wronged or harmed someone else irreparably. And by “irreparably,” I mean the “you can’t take it back” kind of hurt – the type of offense that can’t be undone with “I’m sorry.”
It’s the sort of shame that is near impossible to forgive and needs to be re-forgiven over and over again because it can’t be simply forgotten. Instead, the offense is relived (and all the accompanying pain) with each remembering. It’s simply that bad.
And by offender (those hit by the cat) – I mean me. And you. And that other guy, too. Because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Because, by “sinned,” I’m pretty sure scripture is talking about offenses and hurts, and irreparable wrongs. And sorry to say it, dear ones, but I have yet to meet a non-offender in the flesh. Ever.
I have an amazing circle of good-hearted and decent friends and family members, and every last one of them has offended. We bang into each other with such regularity (cat or no cat), inflicting untold damage upon our bodies and souls, we forget what to call it. We rename it, dumb it down, fluff it up. For whatever reason (denial? poor theology? pride?), we refuse to use the “S word” – to our detriment, I would argue.
Because, at the end of the day, this is what the Lenten season is all about, isn’t it? We are given this annual gift of time to awaken to the utter brokenness of our hearts, to the great gaping gap between our unworthiness and God’s holiness. If we choose to, we may recognize and acknowledge our offender status and our desperate need for a Savior, for the One who went way beyond forgiveness as a saying – a courtesy even – all the way to the cross, and who now serves as our great Innocent Advocate.
When I was a teenager, I met what I would call a “wise man.” As a Christian spiritual leader, he was speaking to a group of us young people who were eager to learn from one who we perceived as beyond us in matters of faith. One of the members of my group asked what a young person could do to be a better Christian. After nearly a minute of silence, the wise man responded solemnly, “It takes time to be holy.”
And that was all he said about that.
Upon reflection, he could have been talking about Lent – about that time we all need to realize the only holiness we can attain is Christ’s holiness that he offers us freely through his sacrifice on the cross. It’s the only holiness that can forgive our offenses fully and heal our irreparable hurts completely.
And it’s this holiness of Christ on the cross that represents our only real hope for making our sorries between each other count for all time and beyond time.
D I G D E E P E R
Kelly Belmonte, founder and Chief Muse of All Nine, is a poet, blogger, and management consultant with expertise in nonprofit organizational development and youth mentoring. Kelly expounds whenever and wherever she gets the chance on poetry, writing, and the creative process. Her work has been published in Relief Journal: A Christian Literary Expression, The Literary Nest, and Atlas Poetica. She is honored to have her poem “How I Talk To God” selected for inclusion in The Word in the Wilderness (2014) edited by bestselling poet Malcolm Guite. Kelly also contributed a chapter to Women and C.S. Lewis (2015), a collection of interviews and essays on the theme of Lewis and women in his life and writings.