Monday, January 12, 2009

The gift of forgiveness

Today’s Reading: John 19:4-5 (NIV)

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

Good morning!

I started taking piano lessons in the second grade. Every day after school, I couldn’t wait to come home and sit down to practice. I would play from the moment I walked in the door until supper time. Unlike the other children in my neighborhood, piano practice was something I looked forward to with a passion. Each week at my lesson, I would accomplish something new, conquering a new scale, a song in a new key, a rhythm pattern I had not played before. I learned several new songs each week and raced through the Thompson piano course in record time.

Vocal and instrumental music were my favorite classes in school and I took them quite seriously. Most of my friends thought music class was a time to play practical jokes and misbehave. Our instructor, Miss Walker, used to get quite irritated with the disrespectful attitude. She had a hard time keeping the children focused on the task at hand. That spring, the fifth and sixth grade music students were in charge of preparing and presenting a program at an afternoon assembly. Two vocal selections featuring student accompanists were placed on the program and those aspiring to accompany the choir were allowed to try out. I made the cut, along with my best friend.

She was also a fine pianist, and loved to practice as much as I did. We were given our assigned music and began to learn the selections. I set aside my regular lesson material to learn the piece of music I had been assigned. I wanted it to be perfect for the assembly. At the dress rehearsal, I sat down to play the music I had been assigned. My best friend began to scream as I started the introduction, “Miss Walker, she’s playing my song! That’s my song!” In a flurry of confusion, we realized that both of us had somehow practiced and learned the same song and that the other accompaniment had not been prepared. My friend confessed in private that the other song was far too difficult for her to play and so she decided to learn the easier piece, but did not tell me. She was so upset that Miss Walker, not knowing what to do, relented and agreed to let my friend play the piece she had learned. I was stunned. Out of some sense of fairness, Miss Walker told me that if I could learn and play the other accompaniment the next day, she would be glad to allow me to accompany the choir as planned. I lost my best friend that afternoon.

I went home and practiced until bedtime. The accompaniment was a Mexican hat dance with complicated and intricate rhythms and fingering patterns. I was determined to play it the following day for the assembly. I knew it would be a stretch, but I wasn’t about to give up on the opportunity to accompany the choir. When the time came for me to play, I took my seat on the piano bench with confidence. I whispered a prayer for heavenly help and I began the introduction. We got about half way through the song before lost my place in the music. Not only was I unable to keep up with the choir, I stopped playing altogether. Basically, I started with the choir, and I finished the song with the choir, but the middle of the piece was virtually sung a cappella. It was more than obvious to the assembly that a portion of this piece was not intended to be sung without an accompaniment. The giggling turned to raucous laughter. There was no mercy for the one sitting at the piano bench, trying to finish what she had begun. This became the first of many life lessons I would experience in the school of public humiliation.

Jesus understands public humiliation and scrutiny. He was pushed into the courtyard, half dead from a beating that shredded every muscle in his body. It wasn’t enough that the sinless Son of God stood beaten, bruised and bloody before the people; He had to listen to their laughter, their insults and mocking. He had made no mistakes, was innocent of any crime, and yet, the people made fun of Him, showing no mercy.

As I long back on my poor lack of judgment, I realized that I could have saved myself public embarrassment had I simply chosen not to accompany the choir that day. I tried to play a piece of music that was far and above over my skill level at that time with not enough practice time to make it work. But the truth is, I did make the mistake in front of all my peers, and that mistake became my responsibility. Jesus didn’t make mistakes in life. Every thing that He said and did, He did with an eternal purpose in mind. Jesus did not deserve the kind of cruel treatment He endured in the courtyard square. We faulted Him for telling the Truth, for being the Way, the Truth and the Life. We returned God’s unconditional love with hatred and violence, prejudice and pain. We publicly humiliated the Savior of the World. How could He ever forgive us?

My former best friend caught up with me after the assembly. She found me sitting in the music room by myself, wiping tears from my eyes. Softly, she said, “I’m so sorry you were laughed at today. You let me play the music that was easier, because I didn’t want to be embarrassed like that. Will you forgive me for not being as brave as you were?” It is amazing to see what a sincere apology will do to mend the pain caused between two broken hearts. I had found my best friend once again.

If you had been the only sinner on the face of the earth, Jesus would have died just to save you. He stands with open, outstretched arms, waiting for you to call to Him in sincere repentance. He loves you enough to carry your sins to the cross. Won’t you ask Him to come into your life today? He is your very best friend and Jesus is reaching out in love to you right now.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO


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