I felt I was being cheated, and then the service manager mocked me.
I had taken my car in because the check engine light was on; it was running fine when I took it in. I agreed to pay $65 for a diagnostic test.
After two hours, they told me they could not find a problem and would bring the car out, and I could leave. Subsequently, they told me the car would not start.
To make a long story short, I paid them to fix something that was not broken when I brought it in. The manager laughed when I suggested I should not have to pay to repair something they did.
I turned the other cheek, paid and left. I needed to get back to my son’s birthday party, and I was in a period of my life when I was working on not being reactive to those around me.
I was not, however, in a forgiving mood.
William Bausch wrote that forgiveness is putting up with an uneven score. None of us likes the way an uneven score feels.
While not trying to equate them in terms of the level of injustice, my car repair experience came to mind as I listened to story after story of forgiveness and reconciliation on the part of people who had gone through the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Perpetrators and victims personally connected to one another through this tragedy, as in one person who killed members of the other person’s family finding reconciliation and forgiveness with that family, demonstrating true affection for one another.
Many of them had lived together as neighbors their whole lives before the killing. Now they were rebuilding the community that had been destroyed in 100 days of killing where a million people perished.
As I listened to these stories, I asked myself, “Who do I need to forgive?” The surly service manager came to mind. That was the best I could do. Really, that was it.
Stories of genocide abound; they are nothing new.
What is stunning about Rwanda is not the tragedy of genocide but the healing and wholeness being sown in the aftermath of tragedy. Healing is the real story in Rwanda.
I am beginning my sabbatical by traveling again to Rwanda to go attend their International School of Reconciliation, where I will learn the process they use to bring wholeness and fraternity where formerly there was only loss and pain.
I want to understand how they harness the power of the Spirit to do what seems impossible.
I have seen evidence of this transformation in people’s lives, but still it is a mystery to me how this can be fostered in human hearts.
I want to learn it for myself, so I might more readily forgive others; I want to learn to lead others in the way of reconciliation.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:13 if we have a claim against someone else, we should forgive them as the Lord has forgiven us.
Paul is saying God puts up with an uneven score when it comes to us, and we should do the same with those around us.
I know, at least for me, this does not come naturally.
Earlier in chapter 3, Paul writes about putting on “the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).
I want to learn how believers in Rwanda are putting on this new self and putting to death what belongs to our earthly nature (Colossians 3:5).
It is all a work of the Spirit. I am going to Rwanda to learn how, by the power of the Spirit, to live happily with an uneven score.
Jim Kelsey is executive minister of the American Baptist Churches-New York State.