I had no idea what I was getting into. A gentle woman I had seen dote on her children and brag on her husbands genius was throwing water in his face. Then she tipped a food tray offered by one of the therapists all over his lab coat. How it must have hurt him to hear the woman he had loved for years shout at him “Liar”. “Liar”. How betrayed she must have felt when she learned the real reason she had been asked to make this trip was not for counseling, but committal. Committing or being committed to a mental hospital is gut wrenching. I thought I would be a reassuring presence to her and a quiet strength to him. Instead, I was a war zone observer.
This was his plan of last resort. His numerous attempts to help through talking, research, and doctor’s visits had not yielded enough fruit for her to be able to care for herself and the children in a competent manner. His deep and abiding love for her drove him to endure insults and humiliation in the blessed hope she would walk out a few months later a restored whole person capable of caring for her children and growing again in her marriage. It was a vengeance of love I first saw described by George MacDonald in his book “Creation in Christ”.
Who doesn’t want to leave the past in the past after a major error on our part? It is hard to ask and sometimes hard to grant forgiveness. Sometimes, people we care deeply about want to be forgiven when it is not in their best interest. They want people they care about to tell them the destructive behavior they have is okay. When you love someone, that just is not possible.
Many rant and rage at God after they say to him, “I thank you, Lord, for forgiving me, but I prefer staying in the darkness: forgive me that too.” “No, that cannot be. The one thing that cannot be forgiven is the sin of choosing to be evil, of refusing deliverance. It is impossible to forgive that sin. It would be to take part in it. To side with wrong against right, with murder against life, cannot be forgiven. The thing that is past I pass, but he who goes on doing the same, annihilates this my forgiveness, makes it of no effect.” MacDonald continues, “If a man refuses to come out of his sin, he must suffer the vengeance of a love that would be no love if it left him there.”
What is sin? God will make sure we know. He talks with us primarily through the Bible but also through the Holy Spirit. As the Psalmist joyful noted, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness”, that is adherence to a moral standard. God wants to lead us to beautiful vistas in life, not fall into thorny rocky crags. When we do fall or wander from the path we are assured of His forgiveness. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” But we cannot stay in the same place. We must move away from what God calls wrong or experience the vengeance of love.