I was on my way home from my branch church’s Wednesday Evening testimony meeting. I was alone, driving down Cain’s Hill Road, which is steep and narrow and difficult under good conditions, but that night it was raining hard and was especially dark.
I was immersed in thinking about the readings I had prepared for the meeting that night, regarding the forgiveness of sin. Contemplating Jesus on the cross saying, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” I saw how this perspective made it possible not only for us to be forgiven, but useful to him for working out the resurrection.
I was reminded of Daniel in the Old Testament who was unjustly thrown into the den of lions, falsely accused and completely innocent. Daniel remarkably held no grudge or resentment at all – as is evidenced by his cheerful greeting to the king afterward– and I’ve often thought that if he hadn’t been so forgiving, the lions would have eaten him, just as metaphoric “lions” devour us when we do not forgive.
Similarly, Jesus had to forgive unconditionally in order to demonstrate the power of divine Love, and triumph over the horrible situation he found himself in. If he had held on to any shadow of a grudge, he would still be in the tomb today.
At this point in my thoughts, I saw a car in front of me run over a skunk, squashing his white stripe, which was a stark contrast in my headlights against the black of the pavement and the night. The other car continued on, and I stopped, with him in the beam of my headlights. He was writhing and flopping on the road, and I couldn’t get past him without hurting him any further, and since no one was behind me, I waited.
“Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I wanted to be mad at the other driver for not being more alert, but I found it was not hard for me to accept that they really might not have known what they had done. They could have been concentrating on their stereo or an intense conversation; it was rainy and the twisty, difficult road might have been unfamiliar. I could genuinely forgive them on the basis that they did not even know what they did.
Looking at the skunk, I started to claim that he didn’t have a mind of his own to be thinking condemnatory thoughts about that driver either. Even though in children’s books skunks may talk, wear bow ties, and live in homes with lamps and bedspreads, I knew this was not true. Even the carnal mind– which we have to get past in order to see spiritual reality– asserts that animals such as skunks do not have the cognitive processes we have. I found myself accepting, very clearly, that this skunk was not busy on the road expressing anger or resentment to the perpetrator of his difficulty.
In the testimony meeting I was coming from I had just read the passage, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” and we had prayed it in the Lord’s Prayer as well. If the skunk forgave this debtor so effortlessly, than his debts (like walking in the street at the wrong time) were forgiven him as well.
Next I started to think about the connection between forgiveness and healing. At church, I had just read of the disciples bringing Jesus a man “sick of the palsy,” and Jesus said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” This statement caused a ruckus, and they complained that he “blasphemeth.” Jesus responded by asking whether it was easier to say, “Arise and walk,” or to say, “thy sins be forgiven thee.” Then, Jesus proceeded to turn to the man with the palsy and say, “Arise,” and the man got up and went home.
Where I was on the road in the dark, I had clearly seen that sins were forgiven, so why not, “Arise, and walk?” The moment I got to those words and realized the indelible connection between forgiveness and healing as essentially two sides of the same coin, the skunk was healed right then and there! He filled out, arose, and walked off the road.
I sat on the empty road for a long time taking it all in.
What was amazing to me was not so much that the skunk had had a dramatic healing, since by that time I had experienced plenty of profound healings in my study of Christian Science. Our church was initially started by Mary Baker Eddy expressly to “re-establish primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.,” so this outcome was natural enough.
But what caught my attention was how very little I had to do with it; I wasn’t really trying to heal the skunk but simply pondering the meaning of God’s Word in application to what was right in front of me. The Bible passages that unfolded in my thought led me to this beautiful result very effortlessly and sequentially in a way I did not generate.
I thought of Jesus being at one with the Father, always in the glorious sense of flow and one-mindedness that I had just experienced. He is our way-shower, and tried to teach us to love like he did and live out from the perspective that he did. And when we have breakthroughs of actually doing that, it is very exciting.
Unlike the skunk on the road, however, Jesus was very cognizant of the gross brutality, stupidity, and injustice inflicted on him that day on the cross. But he could still forgive them because they clearly did not know what they were doing. And he knew all about the divine law that irrevocably connects unconditional, genuine forgiveness directly to healing. It was precicely because he forgave them that day on the cross, that he was able to “arise and walk” on the third day. Without that forgiveness on the cross, the glory of Easter would not have been possible.
So the next time YOU are feeling like metaphoric “road kill,” follow our Master’s sublime example and “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Then you can just get up and be good to go.