A couple of Christmas vacations ago, I took just Sam golfing in Florida. It was a lovely little par 3 course that has just one problem: iguanas. They are everywhere on the course. I have vacationed in that same area essentially my entire life and when I was a child they weren’t there. Even twenty years ago I do not remember seeing them, but now this invasive and disgusting species is commonplace.
On one hole, Sam’s ball was between the pin and three or four iguanas hanging out near a little pond. As Sam was about to hit his shot, being the daughter of Judy Huber (who loved to tease), I considered how I might make him think the iguanas were about to attack. But the anticipation of the ensuing hilarity kept me from devising a good plan. I ran over to him feigning panic and inexplicably yelled out, “Charge!”
He did not for a minute think the iguanas were coming for him. But dang if we didn’t laugh and laugh and laugh over my failed prank. In fact we can still get a good laugh reliving the moment.
Then in a strange turn of events this Christmas vacation an iguana did in fact charge. I was out walking on a path that parallels the beach (see picture above). Between the path and the beach are sea grape trees which provide lovely shade for my morning strolls. I never knew that iguanas go in there. But a huge one — honestly I cannot overstate how mindbogglingly massive it was — charged out of there causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. For 0.7 seconds I marveled at witnessing an iguana running at full speed, but then unbelievably the charging stopped. The enormous, lightning-fast Usain Bolt of iguanas got run over, and I watched it die. The sound was about like the car running over a small tree trunk. I probably screamed because I’m a weirdo like that, but I’m not sure because I was alone. I guess it’s good when an invasive species dies, but death is never pretty, is it?
You know what is even uglier and more invasive than iguanas? Sin. God created this world to be perfect. Before sin entered the Garden there was no hint of destruction. Post-fall we see evidence of decay all around us. Sorrows and pain are everywhere. If we are honest, we all know that nothing is as invasive as sin. Life on earth daily testifies to the truth of the Bible: the wages of sin is death. Left to our own devices we have no way to push back the darkness. Sin mars everything it touches and it rages on until death comes. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son to reverse the fall. Jesus paid the price for all our sins. He offers us clean hearts and purpose. We can partner with Him to shed light in a dark world, and to help restore what was intended. This restoration will not be complete until Jesus returns but I don’t even want to imagine a world without the partial-redemption we now enjoy.
Do you ever stop to consider the cost of forgiveness? Jesus on the cross is such a horrific image. The brutality He suffered, and the grave injustice of it all. These are things we avoid thinking about. We just want the clean heart, the ticket to heaven, and the deep purpose and steadfast love for the here and now. We don’t want to linger over what was suffered. But I think that’s a mistake. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. You can’t appreciate how much you’ve been forgiven if you don’t take a good, long and frequent look at your own heart. Without counting the cost, you also can’t appreciate the forgiveness that is required in daily life. Tim Keller said, “Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Our culture has largely abandoned the goal of forgiveness, and as Christians we need to constantly model and highlight both the goal and its cost. To apply Keller’s words, where do you need to be willing to suffer in a costly way to forgive someone? How can you encourage those around you to embrace forgiveness even when in the short-term it’s painful to do so?
The Lord’s Prayer states it so simply: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).
May the word “as” in that verse be a tremendous motivation to us all.