the Grudge Game
I am a college football fan and more importantly an LSU fan. If you know me, you already know this about me. It is an oddity, I’m sure. But I love football. I love the game, the strategy, the play calling, the God given talent on display in those young athletes on the field and those purple and gold tigers! If I had been born a bit more coordinated, muscular or male, I’d have played football- quarterback for sure! I listen to college football on SIRIUS radio, read football blogs and follow the sport 12 months a year, but only allow myself to discuss it with others from June to January, so you are in luck! I look at recruiting, development of players and NFL drafts. For the record, I am now a Jacksonville Jaguar fan based on their recent selection of Leonard Fournette, running back extraordinaire! Go Jags!
So there is an issue with my football obsession, I live in the state of Alabama. Three of my six children (three God given and three married in children) graduated from the University of Alabama – do you see my problem? During a few months of every year, we have the potential for conflict. OK, let’ be transparent, we have conflict, thus the topic of unforgiveness. The subject of today’s blog happened in 2011- it was billed the GAME OF THE CENTURY. LSU and Bama were both undefeated -ranked #1 and #2 respectively. It was played in Bryant Denney stadium on the evening of November 5th. At the time of the game, my daughter, Maddy, was a college junior. She was a chemical engineering major and we went to the game together, she is not a football fan, but she agreed to go and I knew the outcome would not damper the evening- the perfect football date! She was dressed head to toe in hounds tooth and crimson and I was decked in purple and gold. We sat in the end zone with a bunch of LSU fans. We had a great time. It was a tough defensive game, smash mouth kind of football- not a touchdown was scored. It was 6-6 at the end of regular play and it went to overtime. We didn’t budge from our seats, we watched every minute closely with some of the most controversial plays happening right in front of our seats. Anyway, LSU squeaked by, beating Bama 9-6 in overtime, and history was written. Maddy and I hugged, both said “good game” and decided we needed to leave the stadium quickly, because fans were riled up, on both sides. We clasped hands and walked down the large twisting tunnel to get out of the stadium together.
As we left the stadium there were two rivers of traffic and I was on the far edge of a mass of people moving in one direction and another sea of humanity was moving in the opposite direction passing me closely on my right. Lots of people, lots of noise, talking, etc.… When suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see movement. A young man, probably 18 or 19, wearing a dress white shirt and a tie, with very red eyes, was throwing a punch in my direction. If I hadn’t seen him, he’d have punched me in the jaw, but I flinched and his punch landed on my shoulder. The punch was a shock and a volt of electricity went through my body. I had never been punched before. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt and I was so surprised I could do nothing, but cry. In a few seconds, I rallied. The Momma in me woke up and I decided this young man needed a come to Jesus conversation and I was ready to have it. I turned around and saw him walking slowly past about 10 feet away. No one was walking fast because of the crowds, but he was out of arm reach. I looked at the Bama fan right behind me, a middle aged man, who I have always assumed witnessed the whole encounter, and I said “hey, stop that kid he just punched me!” And the man just smiled and said “not my problem.” Now, my daughter and I got scared. We quickly walked back to her church where we had parked our car and drove to her apartment in silence.
A few months later the national championship game was scheduled with an unprecedented re-match. LSU-Bama again, but this time in New Orleans and with a very different outcome. Alabama killed LSU. I do not believe LSU made it over the 50-yard line all game and Bama won 21-0. Bama fans everywhere rejoiced- bragged, gloated and celebrated their victory. And I sulked- it was a humiliating loss. I quickly told any bragging Bama fan about the punch, and in the deliciousness of my victim status, I survived and took a bit of their victory with me. I reveled in the fact that my pain insulated me from hurt or facing the truth; LSU got outplayed. This sounds like a minimal deal, but in the south, more importantly in Alabama, football talk is serious and a year-round topic. I caught grief from everyone- from my boss down to the man who buffs the floor at my hospital, therapist who worked for me to patients I treated. In response, I used this wrongful punching as a barrier to protect me from insults and keep my heart from hurting for my poor team. Since I didn’t know who that young man was, it was hard to officially forgive him, and easy to let it fester. This event, this unprovoked wrong, had become my protection. And even to a certain degree was my protection from future hurts… and yes, I am aware it was our last victory against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. So, I’ve needed protection!
This same thing can happen in marriage- not the punching, I pray, but the wrong doing and resulting unforgiveness. Unforgiveness can be something we relish. We can be wronged by our spouse and revel in the retelling of the hurtful deed, misconduct, offense. We rally the support of our friends. We bash the offender and secretly build a wall around our heart as to not be hurt again, but this is not how God designed us. His design includes a need to forgive. He numbered how many times we should forgive a person- 70 x 7 times (Matthew 18:21). That’s a bunch of forgiveness. Some say that Jesus was referring to the 490 years of captivity, and others state that he was simply making a point that the number was too big, and that he was implying that forgiveness was a mandate, and can’t be recorded or counted. Jesus took the guesswork out when he stated that if we don’t forgive here on earth, he won’t forgive us our sins either in heaven (Matthew 6:14-15). Ouch! Even the unfair stuff, when we were doing nothing wrong?!? When we are innocent and the sin against us egregious? We have to forgive that too? Simply, yes. That is a truth that is hard to read and harder still if you find yourself in a state of unforgiveness. “That’s unfair”, “I deserve this mad”, ”I’ve done nothing wrong” could be going through your mind, especially if the wrong was delivered by your spouse. But there is a problem with this logic, we have done wrong. We are sinners as well, saved by grace. Nothing we could do could help us qualify for heaven- we need the blood of Jesus and His forgiveness, just like our offensive spouse.
That’s why Jesus would make such a statement- because He is just and righteous. He has the right to make this declaration because of his sinless life. And he without sin, took on all of our sin, including that ill-tempered fraternity boy, and obediently, gladly, died on the cross as the permanent sacrifice or atonement for our sins. We don’t own the right to hold on to these issues, hurts, wrongs. No matter how delicious, no matter how vulnerable we feel without the protection of the grudge.
Now, in hopes of being total transparent, I cannot say or represent that Jody has ever given me any real reason to challenge this concept of forgiveness. I cannot imagine the heart ache or soul wrenching pain of being cheated on, lied to or replaced by an addiction. But I can speak with absolute confidence when I say, forgiveness is your only course, believer. It doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation. Being a proponent of marriage and a believer in grace, I pray it does, but one thing is nonnegotiable- forgiveness is a must. You don’t have enough skin in the game for it to be anything else. You are simply the creation without the ability to change the rules. God is the creator and the one who made the rules. You must trust God. You must trust that He created you and He knows best. He knows that unconfessed sin and/or unforgiveness that will eat up your spirit, blacken your heart, and rob your joy. Even medical research today cannot deny the negative effects of unforgiveness on your body. So, forgiveness is good for you as well, as your spouse. If for no other reason, so that Christ can show you that you are also far more sinful then imagined and still loved and worth every drop of His blood shed on that cross. Forgive, my new friends. Lay down your hurts at the altar, renew those vows with your spouse and have faith that God will finish what you have started, by healing your heart. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself some time, but do what is right. Forgive! Stand on the foundations of forgiveness and let God heal the wounds in your heart. The happiest marriages I know are those that are skilled at the art of repenttance and forgiveness! I pray God is glorified in your marriage and in your pursuit of a word washed life! Keep reading!
And for those Bama fans out there- I forgive you, congratulations good game(s). And I pray this is the year, that you will have to forgive me, just a little bit! Geaux Tigers!