I was up at our family cabin recently and as I looked up at the open beams on the ceiling, an old conversation from twenty years earlier came back to haunt me.
“You know, I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.”
The year was 2000 and I was up at the family cabin sitting at the dining room table eating lunch with my (now departed) father-in-law. We had gone to the cabin to install some trim on some doors and a stained-glass window that I had recently created and installed.
I looked up from my lunch that I had been enjoying to ask what he said to me.
And his statement seemed out of character for this man who was known for his kindness and the gracious way that he treated people. He certainly was not known for holding a grudge or holding back forgiveness.
“What did you say?”; I asked him now that he had my full attention.
“I said I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.” He said as he pointed up to the open rafters on the North side of the ceiling.
He saw my puzzled look and continued with his razzing; “When you were installing that beam, I had commented that you were about to install the beam on the wrong side of the line. Now, as I look up, I see that the beam is installed crooked. And, I was making a comment that I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.”
I struggled for words to correct him but I knew that he was right. He had said it but my youthful pride had prevented me from admitting that I was wrong or at least from stopping to look at what he was talking about prior to nailing the beam in place.
After all, I was working construction and helped him to build this cabin. I was the professional. I was doing this for a living five to six days a week.
He, on the other hand, had only learned what he knew about construction from his father who was a carpenter and had come from a long line of Norwegian wood workers, carpenters, and ship builders.
And all of the construction projects that he had done over the years; including a large two-story addition on their home long before I came into the picture.
My pride had prevented me from learning from someone, who didn’t work occupationally in construction, but who had noticed that I was about to do something wrong.
Now I sat, looking up at the ceiling as I pondered what it would take to correct the situation. I see it each and every time I go to the cabin.
First of all, I would need to take off the whole roof system; which included shingles, ice-and-water shield (which would be glued to the roof), plywood, polystyrene, and one-inch roof boards in order for me to remove and replace the beam in its proper place.
And that would be just to replace the beam.
In order to get my father-in-law’s forgiveness, I would need to exhume the coffin and then raise him from the dead, drive him to the cabin eighty miles away and then, after showing him the beam, ask for his forgiveness.
The truth is I was able to have a conversation with him to understand that he was simply razzing me for not listening to him. He let me know that he didn’t hold it against me.
But what if I hadn’t been able to hear his “aught” against me and asked for his forgiveness? What if he had taken it to his grave when he died seven years later never sharing with me that he had something between us?
More than a crooked beam, unforgiveness will haunt both sides for the rest of your life. And that is no way to live.
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.