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Finding Faith: Stolen wallet a chance to forgive 77 times

"I didn’t want to forgive the thief who stole my wallet that I had left on top of our car in Colorado Springs, Colo., as we were returning from a family trip. I didn’t want to give up the anger. But, as the days have passed since the theft ... a magical transfiguration is taking place."

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks
Contributed
We are part of The Trust Project.

Seriously, Jesus? … I have to forgive them 77 times?

This was a particularly difficult conversation with the Lord.

Specifically, I was having a difficult time forgiving the thief 77 times, as Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 18:22: “Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’”

I didn’t want to give up the anger. … Or maybe was it just a self-defense mechanism to protect me from my own absentmindedness?

Regardless, in the days after it happened, I didn’t want to forgive the thief who stole my wallet that I had left on top of our car in Colorado Springs, Colo., as we were returning from a family trip, even once, let alone 77 times.

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I wanted to hold onto that anger; I felt I was justified in my anger; and I desperately wanted that thief to know they contributed to a miserable end to an amazing family trip to the Colorado Rockies.

But, as the days have passed since the theft, and the items contained in the wallet are slowly being replaced, a magical transfiguration is taking place.

The more I ask God to help instill true forgiveness in my heart, the more the incident that seemingly ruined the vacation subsides, and the more I remember presiding over my niece’s fairy tale wedding 8,000 feet up in the mountains.

The more I pray the thief was able to put the funds to some good use, the more I recall the soaring pine tree-covered peaks of the Rockies, jutting impossibly skyward out of the soil.

The more I pray for peace, the fonder I become of the memories watching our teenage daughters dance the evening away with their cousins with sunkissed mountains as a backdrop.

While important to building community by showing empathy to our neighbor, Jesus’ command to forgive — not seven times but, rather, 77 times — has more to do with our own well being than it does making us feel better about the offender.

I will never know the circumstances of the person who picked up my wallet and, rather than returning it, grabbed whatever they could before I shut down the cards.

I know a little bit about rough patches, as my childhood years were no picnic, but I can’t know for certain their reality. So, all I can do is share my empathy from afar, and pray for their welfare.

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Because, frankly, the anger I was holding onto wasn’t hurting anyone but me, and my wife Shelley, who had to put up with it.

Alright, Jesus … I’m not yet to my 77th forgiveness, but here’s one more …

I pray the person who took my wallet is safe today, sheltered, fed, among loved ones and can feel the Holy Spirit's love wrapped around them, just as I do. … Amen.

Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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