In her own inimitable way, Anne Lamott, in her book “Traveling Mercies,” managed to express the remarkable way that God treats us as fallible humans, and she did it in one of the most economical and beautiful ways that I’ve ever read or heard. She said that she realized the idea of forgiveness, when it was coming from God or from anyone acting like Him, was not so much forgiveness as it was “before, giveness.”
Lamott tells the story of a mother whom she met through the friendship of their sons. This other mother was in better physical shape, was of a decidedly different political persuasion and, in general, seemed to do everything well that Lamott did not. This created some internal animosity and caused a darkness to grow in Lamott’s heart which she spent considerable energy justifying. After one salty encounter Lamott says,
“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
But finally, in a moment of epiphany, she realized that this “rival” mother was actually doing nothing. She was merely being herself, not accusing Lamott of anything, not trying to change her. It was Lamott’s own self-accusing thoughts that were plaguing her. But this was not her only realization. Remarkably, she actually came to see the other mother’s attitude toward her as kindness. This kindness, incredibly, preceded Lamott’s worthiness of it or capacity to accept it. It was as if the woman had chosen to extend her hand of grace until Lamott was able to hold it, whenever that might have been.
She went on to point to God’s own forgiveness to us as the most remarkable expression of this. When we come to God in our guilt and condemnation, we are
not interviewed, put on a waiting list and expected to await His judgment. No, the moment we turn toward HIm in repentance we come to find that God has been holding out His forgiveness long before we ever knew we needed it. Lamott refers to this as “Before, giveness.”
She describes it this way:
“It’s like the faucets are already flowing before you even hold out your cup to be filled. Before, giveness.”
May our disposition be one of forgiveness to others. And may our understanding of God fully accept His incredible forgiveness. And as we both forgive others and find ourselves forgiven, may we begin to understand what it means to leave the faucet of pardon running at all times. It was turned on full blast for us at the cross, and it has yet to stop running, flooding our lives and this world with the grace and mercy of God.