"God created man in His image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them ... God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1: 28–30)
Was God just seeing humanity as a whole, and finding it to be "very good"? Or was He actually looking at each one of us as individuals – you and me – and deciding that we were, and are, "very good"?
Each of us is a unique creation, a one-off. There never have been, nor ever will be, two completely identical people. Even identical twins are not clones of each other. God told us that, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" (Jeremiah 1: 5–6), reinforcing our unique place in His love. That Almighty God could create us and then step back in paternal admiration of his handiwork shows how very precious we are to Him.
It should be an endless source of wonder and consolation that God gives us so many opportunities to learn from our mistakes. He really is the God of second chances, using the ordinary moments of our everyday lives to teach us, tailoring our learning opportunities and experiences to meet our needs. Sometimes we only realise in hindsight where God has worked in our lives. He has a knack of offering bite-size snacks of inspiration, often teaching us something we had not even thought we needed to know in the first place.
I came across a fascinating book about vintage steam trains the other day. Those who know anything about them will be aware of the importance of supplying coal to fire the engine. However, the process of shovelling coal into the furnace to keep that fire burning is a much more complicated and exact science than many of us realise. Even a home coal fire is not as easy to maintain as it looks, requiring frequent and energetic stoking and turning of old embers and the adding of fresh fuel to keep it going.
This led me to the saying "raking over old coals", which is a way of describing our clinging to past grievances and allowing them to fester, rather than letting go. Digging up old problems and remembering old fights is never helpful and can be the spark to reignite the furnace. Hanging onto the pain of old issues merely stokes the flames of the hurt – leaving no room in our hearts for the freedom and healing that forgiveness brings – and robs us of the peace and joy of the present, which is what God wants us to have.
In being so ready to lick old wounds, we can reopen them and easily forget the help that God gave us during trying times, and the prayers that were offered – and answered – as He helped us deal with them. We can't say on the one hand that we forgive the person who hurts us, if on the other we keep a tight grip of the grudge and refuse to drop it. Nor can we justify our expectation of forgiveness for our own wrong-doings if we deny it to others.
In forgiving and focusing on doing good, we give the victory to God and not to the sin. As we approach Holy Week, therefore, we must leave the hurts of our past where they belong, at the foot of the Cross – for without the pain and anguish of the Cross, there would be no Resurrection.