The battery in my truck was dead the other night and I was late for a concert. My girlfriend was kind enough to let me borrow her car for the evening.
I’m unfamiliar with the stereo system in her vehicle and was running up and down the dial searching for something to listen to that wouldn’t give me a panic attack, like classical music or AM country from the ’70s, ’80s and today.
The “seek” button locked in on a signal and I heard the sound of a large audience caught up in waves of laughter. Naturally, I figured I’d stumbled onto a broadcast of classic Richard Pryor, so I leaned back and got ready for a few big, nasty gut laughs. It turned out to be a recent sermon delivered at Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church.
In my experience, Southern Baptist mega-church services are not as much fun as listening to Richard Pryor records, but I like a good sermon as much as the next fella, and it was a good one. I listened as the pastor recounted a recent un-Christian moment when he lost his cool and told some dude off in response to a perceived slight. I’m a little bit of a hothead myself sometimes, so his story was immediately applicable to my life. That, after all, is the point of a sermon, and I listened with casual but real interest. When I got to the bank, I hesitated for a few moments with my hand resting on the ignition key before I turned off the engine and stepped out of the car.
As I walked past a newspaper box, I happened to glance at a USA Today and the headline “Can You Forgive?” jumped off the page at me. Loosely coinciding as it did with the sermon, I pondered the question as I withdrew a couple of 20s, wondering briefly if the IRS might forgive some trespasses on my part.
Back in the car, the pastor wrapped up his talk by urging his congregation to seek out and be willing to offer — you guessed it — forgiveness.
My antennae were buzzing a little. It seemed significant, and I settled in for some contemplation on the matter as I drove down the road. I hit the seek-and-find button on the stereo absent-mindedly, and it stuck on a station in the hinterlands of the radio dial that offered up a plaintive, cloying and altogether treacly Christian rock tune the title and content of which were “Forgiveness.” (Do yourself a favor and don’t go looking for the song. It was, by any metric, very terrible.)
This cluster of coincidence had revealed itself over the course of about seven minutes.
Kilo Romeo Papa Papa, NORAD Synchronicity Radar has positively identified a bogey. Remove safety locks from warheads and standby to scramble jets. Do you copy? Over.
Copy that NORAD, what the fuck? Over.
USA Today and two separate Christian broadcast stations are not media outlets I habitually look to for wise council, and it’s not as though I’m entirely unfamiliar with the concept, acceptance and distribution of forgiveness; it comes up from time to time. Apparently I needed a refresher course.
In addition to being a semi-professional smart aleck, I am also a card-carrying member of the Brotherhood of Grudge Carriers, Local 502. (The union’s motto is, “Our membership is growing … angrier.”) As such, I can sometimes be sort of a prick. So, to my natural and immediate questions about who might need to get in line for some forgiveness, I found myself high on the list.
There are definitely some folks I need to engage in the sacred, reciprocal act of forgiveness; if you don’t know already, believe me, as much as anything can be it is sanctified. What does not occur to me very often is that I should probably be a little more forgiving of myself. This may sound like a) some hippy-dippy bullshit not included in the list of reasons you compulsively read this column, and b) perhaps a self-centered response to an otherwise remarkable series of events. Solid points that did not escape my attention either.
That’s what came up, though. Seeking the forgiveness of others and likewise being willing to forgive is a lesson that, apparently, bears repeating in a crystal clear and conspicuous fashion.