Monday Devotional
Dear Friend,
 
In a church I served, we were fortunate to have a seminary professor as a member.  He taught in the field of worship and sacred music and took these things very seriously.  He took a lot of notes during worship.  Unfortunately, the notes seemed to have been a listing of all the shortcomings in the service.  Every Sunday afternoon he would send a review of that morning’s worship service.  When printed out, they were typically about two pages in length.  He would find fault with the selection of hymns, or the fact that the passing of the peace went too long (as I recall he was a strong introvert and hated this aspect of worship), or he might focus on a call to worship that he thought had not been well written. One constant was a review of the sermon and a full critique of everything from content to delivery. 
 
I had been warned by the previous pastor that this was coming.  This man had been doing this for years.  There was no reason to take it personally, since this is what he had always done and intended to continue.  Initially, I thanked him for his passion for great worship.  I wanted this as well.  But, after a while I struggled to open the emails knowing what was coming.
 
I shared this with him and asked him to include the things he liked about our worship or the things he thought I did well.  I felt that it would be easier to receive the critiques if they were balanced with some acknowledgements of what he felt I had done well.  He promised to try, but this was not his nature.  The emails continued to be filled with negativity, so I asked him to stop. 
 
This request did not sit well.  He became angry and left the church.  But, before he left, he emailed several members, copying me, stating that I was ungrateful and unwilling to learn from his wisdom and experience. 
 
Now more than a decade later, I am sitting on the floor re-reading these emails.  I could feel the anxiety that accompanied the sight of an email from him in my inbox.  It was time to let them go.  It made me think about all the negativity and old baggage that we carry in our lives.  Like an old file folder, every time we move on, either in a physical sense or emotional sense, we pick up that old baggage and bring it with us.
 
There on the floor, one last time I apologized that I could never be the pastor he needed or wanted me to be.  I apologized for the ways in which I had failed him.  And then I let go of the hurt his emails had caused me. I forgave him.  I don’t think he meant to be hurtful.  I think he honestly felt like he was doing a kind deed.  Time had given me a more charitable understanding of his motives.  I shredded the email exchanges and let go of the hurt.
 
It is asking a lot, I know.  But, I invite you to look through the past and see if there are old wounds that perhaps it is time to relinquish.  Has the passage of time made it possible to grant forgiveness?  Is there something you are carrying around that no longer serves a useful purpose?  Perhaps you can find the peace that comes from forgiveness.
Peace,
Howard