Cure for the Sin Hangover

Sometimes when people tell me they think I’m so kind, or so generous, or so caring, I begin to feel a bit twitchy. When will I let them down? I sometimes wonder. And what happens when I do? I told my best friend not long ago that I’d like people to be able to say about me, “That Allison–she handles her sin well.”

Piha hike

Well. Handling my mistakes well means I have to DEAL with them. Face them, acknowledge them, own up to them:  all of that. And, yes, I want to be the person who takes responsibility and seeks forgiveness, but…Honestly, the process feels a little gross. It’s what I think of as an emotional, spiritual hangover:  too much indulgence in something not good for me anyway, and then facing the consequences of said indulgence after the fact.

I experienced just such a hangover this week. In addition to celebrating Woodrow’s birthday on Saturday, we plan to run a 5K. This will be the boys’ first one. I ran avidly many years ago and ran quite a few races, too. Not long after moving to Orlando, I ran 4 races in 3 months (one 10K, the others 5K’s). And although I liked the discipline and challenge of running back then, I don’t particularly enjoy running now. I much prefer my cardio pilates and strength training. But Garfield wanted to run a race, and this one is available. Woodrow had vacillated about whether he would run, too, so I had waited until near the deadline to sign us up.

Last Sunday night, I attempted to register the 3 of us (Mike is going to cheer us on from the sidelines). I had issues with the registration site, and there was conflicting information communicated. I sent a message requesting help, only it didn’t go through. I tried sending that message more than a dozen times–each time it failed. So I called the phone number listed for the organization sponsoring the race but couldn’t leave a message; they didn’t have voicemail activated during non-business hours.

The next morning–Monday, the day of the deadline–I called during business hours but got no answer. I left a message. About 5 hours later, a young woman returned the call but couldn’t help me. I got impatient with her. She told me the person who could help would call me the next day–but online registration ended that night.

The next morning, during our home school lessons, I got the phone call from the person equipped to help with online needs. Even before he started the conversation, I was already annoyed and believing the worst about the situation and about the people supposedly available to help me. Early in the conversation, I rather rudely told him he should stop interrupting me so he could hear how I needed his help–that is, if he really intended to assist me.

He responded, “Maybe we should just not have you run this race.” I was momentarily speechless. “Why is that?” I asked. “Because I don’t think you like us very much,” he chuckled. Taken aback, I simply said, “Thank you for your time,” and hung up.

Y’all. I was embarrassed. I had royally showed my tail, as we say in the South. For the rest of the day, I felt the sting of regret. The person who contributed a story to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book on random acts of kindness, the woman who has a picture of the word “grace” as her Facebook cover photo, the one who used to wear a necklace with the word “forgive” engraved on the pendant (me, in case you’re wondering) had just been rude, mean, and disrespectful to a total stranger who had intended to help me navigate a registration tool so I could race in a fun run with my children. Regret didn’t even begin to convey what I felt.

Later that day, after hours of mulling over the wording of an apology email, I typed it up and sent it–being sure to state my apology and ask for forgiveness twice within the message. I intensely wanted that sentiment to be communicated. I felt renewed peace at sending the message but still hated–hated–the lingering unresolved conflict.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t know if the person to whom I’d been so awful would even receive the email message, but I surely prayed he would. And I emailed my best friend to ask her to pray that, too. And he did.

The next morning, I saw his message in response. He thanked me and offered to help get me registered online and even to pay for the fees for all 3 of us; he said it was “very sweet” of me to have sent the message (but I don’t think so–I think it was right and necessary, but “sweet” would have been showing patience at the outset).

What was genuinely sweet, though, was the sense of relief and resolution that had now replaced the remorse I’d felt the day before. What a lifting of my heart, to receive the message that I was forgiven and, even more than that, welcomed to the event after all. God’s forgiveness is like that, I think–giving us a clean slate AND welcoming us into relationship. {Incidentally, we covered our own registration fees.}

I journaled and prayed later that night about the heart issues underlying my attitude and actions toward this stranger on the other end of the phone. Discussing all that would merit a whole ‘nother blog post. But the lesson I did take away from the experience is that God disciplined me in this situation. Discipline, as in loving correction. The Lord has been hearing my prayers to have a transformed heart that consistently responds and acts out of the source of unshakable peace He gives. God took me up on that and used this man’s decisive boundary–Hey, if you’re going to be so rude, I can’t help you–to get my attention in a very lucid way about an area where I don’t consistently respond out of a peaceful heart. You want to grow, Allison–this is what growth requires. Truthfully, I’m deeply grateful for God’s chastening, for His not allowing me to get away with it, and for this man’s boundary, too.

birdsnest

In this instance, I was far–as in, light years away–from being the so kind, so giving person I’m sometimes described as being. But I believe I made the right choices in handling my sin:  accepting responsibility, trying to make it right, seeking forgiveness.

Confession:  It IS good for the soul, especially when your soul is suffering a hangover.

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