A blog by Josh Humbert
“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” C.S. Lewis
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.”
Our family recently bought an elephant. It’s a purchase we would encourage others to make without the slightest hesitation.
What’s that? You don’t have room for an elephant, you say? Or the funds? Friend, if you have about $60 and an open space about the size of a large grape then you too can enjoy this elephant.
The best part? If you buy this elephant, you’d get the rest of his crew which will include: a petite but inspiring pig, a fired-up lion, a ferocious bear, a curious bunny, and a wise old hand-me-down rag doll.
These are the characters in a fantastic storybook adventure game called Stuffed Fables. It’s a cooperative board game that feels like playing your way through a Pixar film. (Parents, I give it HIGHEST recommendations) You and your group play as those characters who are stuffed animals belonging to a young girl. As the stuffies, you come alive at night to go on wild adventures in order to protect your young girl as she sleeps.
Piggle the pig, Lionel the lion, Theodora the bear, Flops the bunny, Stitch the rag doll….and Lumpy…our elephant.
Our family LOVE all the stuffies as they each represent a different expression of the young girl’s personality…but in Lumpy, there is a glimpse of something else.
I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong, yeah?
Early in the Spring of 2017, a friend of mine hit me with a series of texts that spelled out the worst possible scenario: his marriage was in shambles; it was full-on crisis mode. He wondered if there was any chance it could survive.
He and his bride had both made mistakes and been sinful, imperfect people (in other words, they were just like ANY marriage). Unfortunately, with my friend and his wife, there had not been repentance and reconciliation. Relationship “bills” hadn’t been paid for years – now, the “final notice” was posted.
I’d seen other marriages that looked hopeless – it was devastating to see it now between two great people. Along with some other friends, we worked on why repentance was necessary and the actions that would (we hoped) begin to restore the marriage and love. We sought the Lord in prayer; and make no mistake, we were asking for a miracle.
But even I had my doubts….
Maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
They way they disregard
“So…Lumpy is kind of like Jesus?”
These are the questions you may not anticipate as a parent, but hearing this from my son brought a smile to my face.
After unboxing Stuffed Fables and getting familiar with all the characters and their special abilities we had come to Lumpy’s player card. Lumpy is an excellent listener for the young girl – when she has a secret, she turns to him. As Plaid Hat (the company that publishes the game) describes: “This responsibility might burden others, but an elephant never forgets how important his role is.”
Lumpy can take the secrets and fears that are shared with him. He is a “stalwart defender, lovable tank.”
Part of the cuteness of the game is that as one of these stuffie characters, your life-points are measured in…well….little pieces of stuffing. As you battle villains (who are given black pieces of stuffing), if you take damage, you lose your all-important pieces of stuffing.
Which is where Lumpy comes in…..
Well, it’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it don’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done
Forgiveness is one of the deepest, most gracious things a person can ever give. Without exaggeration, to offer forgiveness to one who has wronged you is an incredible, darkness-defying act.
Forgiveness is the only shocking thing left left to do in this world of ours. In a culture where every moral line has been crossed and celebrated, in a place where the internet exists along with all it’s filth, and in a time when virtues are unceasingly mocked it can seem as if we have truly seen it all. Not so if you dare to forgive – it’s the last and best way to provide a divine jolt to our world.
Hollywood yearly pumps out “revenge movies” and it’s quite overdone at this point. However, when we see a story of real forgiveness, it’s like someone brings a candle into a dark room. We are reminded of one of the highest and best things in this world.
Tim Keller has two of the richest explanations of true forgiveness that I’ve read. I will combine them here so you can get a sense of what is at stake in forgiveness and what it truly costs:
“…God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly……….Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.”
Here then is the Christian concept of grace that has radically changed the entire world. There can be mercy and forgiveness FREE to the wrongdoer that is graciously given at great cost to the one who gives it. Every other religion or way of life gives a wrong-doer things to DO, steps to be taken, approval to be earned, forgiveness that comes with a price tag. Jesus instead absorbs our full cost at the Cross of Calvary and offers us a new life for free.
This is why we say that grace is AMAZING. There’s no other belief system like it. His grace has shattered our categories.
This world can celebrate dissension and dispute as they keep up with the latest twitter-feud. Or delight in the mixtape their favorite rapper drops in response to some “beef” they have with another rapper. Or maybe people just smile as they sing along with lyrics like “baby, now we got bad blood, now we’ve got problems, and I don’t think we can solve’em. You made a really deep cut, and baby, now we’ve got bad blood, hey!”
Bad blood? For Christians it cannot and must not be so. It’s why our Death Star must die. We have been bought with divine blood – every problem HAS been solved by Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and powerful resurrection. There is no bad blood with us and God because Jesus has willingly absorbed the really deep cut that should have been ours. Now we get redemption that’s graciously free because He bore it all in our place. That’s the game-changing grace that only Jesus provides.
Now, Christians can image this type of grace on a smaller scale in our relationships. When we are wronged, we have the opportunity to display grace in a world that is desperate for it. We can make the harder choice: mercy and forgiveness FREE to those who do not merit it. And this will mean we swallow the cost, we absorb the debt they owed.
This is what has been radically done for us through Jesus. We now become His ambassadors and, though it may mean a bittersweet ministry, we can display the brilliance of God’s love through offering complete and unmerited forgiveness to those who wrong us, though it be costly to us.
However…..(flashing lights)….(siren wails)….Understatement alert: This is hard to do.
Oh, Father won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’
Which brings us back to Lumpy.
One of his special abilities is called “Protect.” It reads like this: “Use this ability when another stuffy would lose stuffing. Lumpy may lose 1 more of that stuffing instead.” When he sees someone else about to lose stuffing (the precious life-points of the game)….Lumpy can willingly choose to lose his own stuffing so they won’t have too.
As Plaid Hat describes him: “Lumpy doesn’t like seeing his friends get hurt, and his ability to endure the many dangers of their adventures means that he is there for his friends when needed.” He has the ability to give up his own stuffing so they won’t suffer that loss. He can absorb their loss and pay it for them. Lumpy can let them stay safe because of his costly love.
Yes son….Lumpy is kind of like Jesus.
“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.”
I’ve seen some Lumpy-esque moves in my friend’s marriage. As dark secrets have been shared, as painful confessions have been made, as the worst has been made known…costly love has shown up in them both.
At the absolute brink, literally with the pen in hand to sign papers…there have been choices made to forgive. To give mercy. To give another chance. It’s the only shocking thing left in this world and I have witnessed it in a beautiful way.
Where the damage would have been so terrible and where “stuffing” would have been lost on both sides and in their children’s lives….they have both chosen to give grace.
It has not been easy. Many days since are a struggle. The temptation to let the other feel the pain and grief is there. But grace is greater. Forgiveness is better. He and his wife have each born the debt of the other.
The world would encourage them to PUNISH their spouse for they have been done wrong. Grace says to PROTECT, like Lumpy would, for they have been shown ultimate protection in Christ.
Every marriage, every family needs an elephant like this.
We think pain is owed, apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound of mercy and
Your grace, Father, send Your angels down
Oh, Father won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh, Father give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’
In 2nd Corinthians 5, Paul tells all believers that we “have been given the ministry of reconciliation,” because of what Christ has done. A ministry of forgiveness, of showing grace, of making things right. That…isn’t optional. You have been GIVEN this ministry. What has been done for you in a vertical sense (with God) is now to be repeated on the horizontal (with other people).
It is the bittersweet ministry: when you are sinned against, when you have been done wrong…you have the chance to be a stalwart defender and a lovable tank. You can absorb the price so they don’t lose stuffing. You can “lose stuffing” so they can taste grace. You can bring costly love in to this dark room and let it shine so brilliantly.
“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.”
Frederick W. Robertson
Tenth Avenue North wrote a song called “Losing” that you’ve seen interspersed in this piece. I considered many songs as the “soundtrack” to this piece, but quite honestly, if we are talking of Jesus and Lumpy…well, there can be no better song.
Additionally, you can watch as the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, Mike Donehey, gives the story behind the song. You may laugh (as I did) because he literally talks of God not being an elephant. While I totally agree with Mike’s meaning, perhaps once he plays Stuffed Fables, he can agree with mine. God is not like an elephant….but Lumpy IS like Him.
Here’s the back story video:
Here is the song. May it be an encouragement to you. May you give Lumpy-type sacrificial love to those who don’t deserve it. May you excel in this ministry of reconciliation you have in Christ.
Lose your stuffing for them. It is always worth it.
Content-recommendation: For a more in-depth look at what forgiveness is and is not, please read this piece by my friend Shane Pruitt. He tackles 7 myths about forgiveness that I think you’ll find very biblical and helpful.
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.
Great word, Josh. Thanks for the thoughtful and powerful reminder of what grace looks like among broken people.
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