The Murder House Down The Street
I remember the day that I saw all of the police cars and crime scene investigator vehicles surrounding the "Murder House" just down the street from where we lived at the time.
We found out later that a man had been shot to death in the garage, and the suspect was his stepson, who had disappeared. Mystery surrounded the whole affair for a time with stories of how the stepson was spurred on by his mother to do away with her husband.
More time passed, but no charges were filed, and the stories faded. Eventually, no one in our small town talked about it anymore.
But every single day when I drove out of our neighborhood, I would look at that house and remember what happened in it.
Even when the house was sold, repainted, and fitted with new landscaping, I still would feel a bit of a shudder inside when I went past it. Because it was always the Murder House to me.
I also realized something about the way I've always looked at the Murder House. The reason why it has bothered me so much was that the house had always looked perfectly normal---even on the day that tragedy struck.
And deep down inside it made me afraid. If tragedy could strike down the street... in a normal looking house--like mine... What keeps it from striking even closer to home?
I got to thinking about that house and my feelings toward it recently. At the time, I was also pondering my own frequent inability to show grace toward and to forgive certain people, who have either grieved me or those I care about.
Basically, I end up treating them a bit like the Murder House. No matter what they do on the outside, I can't or won't see past what I believe to be true about them on the inside.
The hard truth of this came home to me with a vengeance recently when someone who I thought was beyond the capacity to change began to show signs of transformation, and I realized I didn't want it to be true---I rather liked them as the villain, you see.
But what was going on inside of me was that I was having to come face to face with the fact that what I struggled to forgive the most in the other person was in reality the very thing I feared was true about myself.
I read this amazing line from Fr. Richard Rohr recently that sums up this feeling perfectly:
As we learn to live in Divine Space, we will almost naturally weep over our former mistakes, as we recognize that we ourselves are often the very thing that we hate and attack in other people.
Each of us has had our own struggles with this, and we always have a choice to make when the moments of reckoning come...
Will we be willing to admit the truth about what's going on inside of us, and show ourselves grace and forgiveness? Or will we decide to put a new coat of paint on our outside, and maybe add a few accent bushes to the landscaping, and go on pretending there's nothing wrong?
You and I have that choice to make today and every day.
We very well might weep over our former mistakes, but the good news is that we serve a God who longs to wipe away all our tears and give us joy and abundant life.
May you make the best choice today and every day forward when it comes to making your inside match your outside. May you live into God's great big story of redemption.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.