Don’t Ask


Don’t Ask

One of my personal little ‘life rules’ is don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer. (It ranks right up there with it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission, and proceed until apprehended.) I have my reasons. I don’t ask the doctor how much something is going to hurt because nine times out of ten, the anticipation is worse than the procedure. (And the tenth time, he’s probably lying.) I don’t ask the mechanic how much the repair is going to cost when I drop the car off in the morning, because brooding over it while I’m at work won’t change the bottom line. And I don’t ask what the forecast is in the winter because I manifestly despise the cold, and the lower the temperature, the higher my temper. I just don’t want to know. Wake me when it’s July.

Say what you want, this little rule of mine serves me well. And I fervently wish I had been able to drill the same rule into Peter’s head before he opened his big mouth and asked Jesus that clanger about forgiving people. I don’t know if his brain flatlined at that particular moment, or if he was just trying to show off by sounding generous, but how could he not know how that was going to turn out? “How often should I forgive my brother or sister if they sin against me? As many as seven times?”

(*facepalm*) Duuuuuuuuude…

“Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Great. Thanks a lot, Peter.

I get the premise. We need to forgive as often as God forgives us. There’s no quota on God’s forgiveness when we screw up, so we owe it to others to extend the same courtesy.  But come on. When I’ve got a decent mad on, I’m not interested in forgiving. (Sometimes a good grudge is like a cat. It’s perfectly capable of harming me with its little death blades, and yet I will hold it close, snuggle with it, name it, pet it, and feed it.)

Clearly, I need practice at this forgiveness thing. Fortunately, my vocation provides me with tons of opportunities for me to do so. (My tongue is planted firmly in my cheek as I say this.) But forgiving people is hard. Especially when people who love and serve the same God as I do are hurtful. When they judge or criticize others, when they insist on orthodoxy over pastoral care, when they appear unwilling to attempt to understand someone’s point of view… forgiving them is often exhausting and disheartening. And when the attacks get personal, it’s harder still. I can find it in myself to forgive a few times, but once we get past two or three, never mind double digits, I’m done. (And even more annoyed that Peter didn’t keep his mouth shut.)

But, really, blaming Peter for asking the question doesn’t change anything. Even if he hadn’t, I know what the answer would have been anyhow. I pray it every day. Forgive us our trespasses as [often as] we forgive those who trespass against us. I just think it would have been easier to feign ignorance and ask for forgiveness if he hadn’t asked. (But really, that just puts us right back where we would have wound up anyway.)

So, here we are. The question got asked. I can’t pretend I didn’t hear the answer. So instead of resenting Peter, perhaps now the trick is to ask a better question than his: “Jesus, can you please show me how?” That’s an answer I won’t mind hearing.

By Darcie Lich
Vocation Team – Oblate Associate
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