Enjoy Your Forgiveness

 I walked to the gym, and afterwards went to a coffee shop to recover and read. Then I walked home. When more than an hour after leaving the gym I got to the gate of my apartment complex and pulled out my keys from my gym shorts, I found: they were not my keys.
    At once I got in my car and drove back to the gym. I thought of the worry—if not more—that someone had gone through. I was practicing speeches in my head, trying to explain how I had taken the wrong keys. I had “excuses”: they were similar to mine; I was stressed; and so forth. I realized that if the owner had incurred expenses I should pay them. I also realized that with a bit more thought, a bit more attentiveness to things outside of me, I might well have never picked up his keys.
    When I arrived and told the desk clerk that I had left with someone else’s keys, the owner, who was nearby, jumped up with happy face and raised hands. “I knew someone would come back with them!” he said. I tried to say some of my prepared speech, but he heard nothing of it. He was glad just to have the keys.
    Thus something came home to me, personally, something that I often teach: namely, that we find the meaning of our lives in the narrative of the Bible. Which story was I living? In part, it was the parable of the prodigal son.
    Like the prodigal, I realized I had done wrong and turned around to go back. On the way I went through what I would say, as does the prodigal: “I will say to my father, I have sinned against thee and against heaven and am no longer worthy to be called thy son; treat me as one of thy hired servants.” And like the father in the story, the man cut off my words and simply thanked me for coming back.
    There is that awful feeling: I had done something that I could not fix. I had no way to give him back that (assuredly long) hour or two of his life, no way to erase the worry he must have gone through. I deserved something that did not happen. What did happen was grace.
    It’s good to live in the biblical story, good to see grace arise in one’s life. A friend of mine is a rector of a parish back east; he likes to say, “Enjoy your forgiveness!”
    We might not like the fact that we need forgiveness, but it is indeed a joy to have it.
    Out & About.  This Sunday, October 31, I am to preach at the 10:30 a.m. service at St. Matthias Church in Athens, Texas.
    The next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar is set for 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 28. We will discuss Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
    On the Web: As a Christian ethicist I have an ongoing interest in the effects of technology on our humanity. On the New Atlantis website is a new article that I found interesting: “How to Fix Social Media.” The author says we’ve seen these problems before, and we can handle them: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/how-to-fix-social-media

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."