Gas Station Epiphany
The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven, whose sin is covered over, is truly happy! – Psalm 32:1 (CEB)
Father Gregory Boyle, founder of the gang-rehabilitation program Homeboy Industries, says, “Nothing is more important than the … kind of God we believe in.” Our notion of God “directs our course,” he says.
But many of us aren’t even aware of what our notion of God is. We may have never thought about it or, if our understanding of who God is has evolved, we may have a hard time shaking an earlier view.
This became clear to me at a gasoline station, of all places.
I hadn’t done anything horrible, but I hadn’t acted as responsibly as I should have—and reactions were swift. First, a customer yelled at me, filmed me on her smartphone, and threatened to “turn me in.” I felt about an inch tall. Then, an employee stuck her head through my passenger-side window and gently said, “It’s okay. This has happened before. Don’t worry about it.” I nearly wept with relief and gratitude.
It was only after I had driven many miles that my heart rate slowed enough for me to consider what had happened:
The angry customer was the personification of my childhood God, always wagging a finger and telling me what I’d done wrong, leaving me with a sense of shame that was hard to shake.
The kind employee was the embodiment of who I now understand God to be: tender-hearted, understanding, endlessly forgiving.
Happy, indeed, is the one who is forgiven. And blessed are we whose notions of God are transformed by love and grace.
Continue to reveal yourself to me, O God, that my heart might be healed.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.