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August 30, 2012
This is Not a Stone
It's Not Fair!
by Hannah Bird

One of the most frequent lamentations of humankind is “it’s not fair.” Teenagers say it when their curfew is earlier than that of their friends. Little children say it when they have to go to bed on a light summer night.

It’s not fair that I am not a smoker but am dying of lung disease while George Burns smoked like a chimney and lived long enough to call Methuselah “son.” It’s not fair that an inattentive driver hit our new car the first day off the lot. It’s not fair that one teacher allows Cliff Notes and another does not. It isn’t fair that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It isn’t fair that I have six children and I look like some obscene hybrid of a Bassett hound and a walrus while my friend has eight kids and looks she’d better hurry or she’ll be late to junior high.

Then thereis always our retort when our children cry out for relief from (perceived) injustice. “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”

We are right. Life isn’t fair. But we stop too soon if we end there. Life isn’t fair. But one of the requirements of anyone who claims to follow Christ is a firm understanding that life is brutally unfair in our favor. When people lament unfairness or point out injustices I am always quick to point out that I heartily endorse the inherent unfairness of life. In fact, I depend on it.

It isn’t fair that I was a miserable spiteful little monster of a teenager but my mom is still lovely to me. It isn’t fair that I picked on my siblings right and left and they all grew up and seem willing to pretend I am a perfectly nice person. It isn’t fair that I made horrible choices when I was broken and sad and that I walked away unscathed. It isn’t fair that despite my general miserableness and desire to share that misery, I ended up with a very happy life.

I am so grateful that I did not get what was coming to me. I pray I never do. That is the deal I came down here under. I would screw up and if I chose, rather than fairness I could be offered forgiveness.

This is the great human blind spot. We want fairness and justice for those who annoy or harm us, but we want mercy and forgiveness for ourselves and loved ones. The gap is difficult to bridge. It is hard to want to extend mercy, especially when the injury is severe. But still the Lord commands us to forgive.

Some years ago I was struggling to forgive a person who had done me a great wrong. There was emotional, spiritual, and physical injury. I will live the rest of my life with some of the physical effects of that person’s choices. But I also knew that I was ruining myself and all my relationships by being angry. I knew I was commanded to forgive. I knew that was the path to peace. So I decided to try.

I tried by starting in the same place most of us do, prayer. The scriptures command us to pray for our enemies. So I began praying for this person with all my heart.

I prayed that they would come to an awareness of what a colossal scumbag they were. I prayed for them to be sorry. I prayed that the Lord would mete out the justice I would never find anywhere else. I prayed that they would know exactly how badly they had damaged me. I pretty much covered every scenario under which this most loathsome individual would come to a knowledge of their dirtbaggy-ness and would be brought to their knees with guilt and shame. I was more than happy to forgive. If they simply admitted fully to everything and groveled at my feet, I could let it go.

Surprisingly enough, this version of praying for my enemies made me feel no better. A few months after beginning this exercise in futility, I was talking to my brother. He also had much to forgive. And he was doing it much more gracefully and peacefully than I was. So I asked him how he prayed for his enemies. He said, “I just ask that anything good I want for myself happen to them too.”

I was absolutely shocked. If I prayed for good things to happen to this person, how would they ever know that they were awful? I prayed that they had health and safety, how would they be punished for what they did? If I prayed over their finances, relationships, and daily joy, how would they know that they needed to come groveling for forgiveness? And that’s when I understood I had really no intention of forgiveness. I wanted fairness.

I thought about it for a long time before I could actually do it. One night I kneeled down next to my bed and I finally felt ready. I began the prayer and stopped. Quick as a flash that longing for fairness shot through my mind: “They don’t deserve any of these good things.” And just as quickly the question returned, “Do you?”

For the first time, I really understood that the blessings in my life were not fairness. They were not the obvious rewards of a life well lived. I hadn’t lived that well. They were gifts. And as long as I wanted life to be unfair in my favor, as long as I wanted forgiveness for myself, I could not ask for justice. I could only forgive and let my Father’s will be done.

My brother was right. He’d tell you he usually is. I will agree if you promise not to tell him.

I prayed for this horrible awful no good evil human being to have a nice day. When I was worried about money I prayed that they would have plenty. When I was sad, I prayed that they had joy. I prayed that their family was well. I prayed for every good thing I could think of. And when I did, the peace finally came. I was free. I was done. I was happy. I was newly aware of my many blessings. I was grateful. And in the end, this loathsome monster became just another human being for whom I could feel compassion, mercy, and all at once on one shocking day — love.

Life isn’t fair. That is the gift of the Savior. We are not here under the law of justice unless we refuse to accept the gifts of forgiveness and mercy.

As for me and my house, we will take unfair.

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