Just home from my own match, while catching up on the days play of the US Open tennis tournament, Doug walked past. What’s the score he asked? Sifting through 7 hours of recorded play, I was tracking with several matches so didn’t really know how to answer.
The truth is I was very distracted. I was still rehashing the ugly tennis match I played earlier while I should have been packing. It was already 9:00 pm and we would leave for Denver very early the next morning for a family wedding. Bouncing between laundry, recorded tennis and finding adequate wedding attire for my thrift store shopping son, the question hit me. What was the score?
Scoreboard Turned On
I can’t recall when exactly my “scoreboard” was turned on. In part because I don’t remember when I wasn’t staring it down. Without much effort it seems my mind is especially keen for record keeping, particularly when it goes against me. The continuous tabulation goes something like this…. I was the first to apologize last time we fought, I’ll wait for him this time. She was so thoughtful and generous for my birthday, I need to up my game for hers. He made me wait for thirty minutes, last week, I can be a little late.
What about you?
Picture your own mental scoreboard. Do you ever catch yourself keeping score, trying to stay ahead or at least keeping even? Since we live among different circles and juggle many relationships, it may be necessary to keep track of multiple scoreboards. The marriage scoreboard, the family scoreboard, the church scoreboard, the friends scoreboard. In school, math was my thing. It has served me well. I’ve been successful at keeping track of this complex addition and subtraction.
Except when I’m not.
When it backfires
Like when my casual offhand remark is wrongly perceived and in a blink my score goes to zero. In spite of all the credits I may have stockpiled, they no longer matter. How can I fix it? I can’t. I lose. My relationship is injured and all confidence is gone because I’m unable to tie the score with my own effort. I’m indebted. I need forgiveness.
Keeping a record
Tonight I played a tennis match and even though we won easily, it wasn’t fun. Before we started, my opponent said I looked familiar. I smiled and agreed. But pretended to not recall the circumstances of our first meeting. The truth is, I knew exactly who she was, when we had met and how things went down. Oh yes. In full living color while warming up, the tape of the injustice replayed in my mind. Every. Ugly. Detail. I felt my blood pressure rise fueling my intense desire to make things even between us, handle things on the court I decided. Fair and square.
Im ashamed to know what Jesus thinks of my record keeping. It is so automatic, I’m often not even aware I am doing it. It turns out my skill for deceiving myself has become very refined. Sin is slippery that way. It fits so nicely into our everyday and becomes our go-to behavior without much thought.
The sour taste from the night’s match lingered. It wasn’t close, and no one suspected the motive that fueled my play, but why did I feel so yucky with no peace? My mind drifted to the family we would see at the Denver wedding, many we haven’t seen in years. What is the score with them I thought? Attempting to dust off our sorted history, the Holy Spirit made His way into my thinking. Stop it, I heard Him say. Just stop it.
He came to shatter it
I was reminded that Jesus came to not just unplug the bright lights on my scoreboard; He came to shatter it to smithereens. Forever. In spite of the harsh reality of God = infinity and Me = zero, Jesus is my defense and with His sacrifice evens the tally. With God, no scoreboard exists. That is Grace.
God isn’t thinking about all the things I did wrong last week, or yesterday or even the last hour. Thank God He doesn’t keep score. He chooses to remember them no more.
Jeremiah 31:34 …..“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
While working on this article, I paused to check more tennis scores. It was as if God winked at me as I noticed the score of an unplayed match, LOVE-LOVE. (For the uniformed tennis has an unusual scoring method and love translates to zero)
Beginning to get the hint, it was as if God spoke truth through my favorite sport suggesting I approach every interaction knowing my score begins with LOVE, regardless of any history. That isn’t possible in my own strength. It requires I tap into the source of that love.
Driving the point home
Love. The bible’s love chapter is 1 Corinthians 13 and is chock full wise counsel. It won’t surprise you to know that God reinforced His point because that was the very passage preached about at the family wedding.
1 Corinthians 13:5 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Keeping a record. Ouch. Guilty. Tending scoreboards is not only sinful and tedious, it’s exhausting. When my mind and heart are clouded with judgements in order to assess my current record with another, I don’t leave room for grace. I’m unable to see them as Jesus sees them.
A Better way
Thankful for the timeliness of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I didn’t entertain family history. Instead, I prayed for Him to go before me and erase my memory to be able to see each person through a filter of grace.
My prayer was answered. During my visit with interesting family personalities, absent of any silent judgements, my time with them was especially sweet and peaceful. While it’s true, you can’t pick your family you can choose to see them through a lens of mercy and grace. And it makes all the difference.
We cannot control whether or not another person records our mis-steps. But when we behave with love and mercy, as Jesus does, we do our part to keep the scoreboard out of service.
Dear Lord Jesus, I praise you for defending me and remembering my sin no more. I am GUILTY of keeping track of the score in many of my relationships. Please forgive me. Thank you for using an every day occasion to convict me and teach me a valuable lesson. Help me to approach all interaction starting with a score of LOVE. And cause me to resist any temptation to impress or somehow even the score trusting that YOUR defense of me is all that matters. Amen
Ouch! Hit the mark in me. I keep score and God doesn’t! He’s been working on me to live in the present and only focus on him no matter what is going on around me. Not easy!! And this is another aspect that can keep me from living in the moment. Thanks so much!
That IS a tall order Berta. And this was a hard one for me to write. But sin is sin is sin. I’m especially thankful for His kindness and gentleness. Still, the conviction is needed so we don’t miss out on His best.
Anne Kole says
It is a blessing that God doesn’t keep score. He’s already won! Thanks for your insight. Love you Debbie!
Amen. Amen. Thank you Anne.
Katherine Ott says
Thanks, Debbie, for the reminder. I remember when I chose to see my mother “through the lens of mercy and grace.” It made all the difference in our relationship. Thanks be to God for the love and forgiveness.
Indeed! So much more peaceful when we do! Thanks Katherine.
Karen s says
Yikes! I have to work at this too, . . . all . . . the . . . time! Thanks for your brutal honesty, Debbie. Real life helps me see more clearly than I otherwise might.
Brutal honesty… is indeed brutal. Thankful to know it helps others.
Traci Kelley says
Very eloquently stated. I know we have all suffered from the same affliction one time or another. I am truly glad I met you at the family wedding, or maybe I would never had the opportunity to read your “confession”. Thank you for sharing.
Ha! Traci…. I enjoyed meeting you. So thankful to learn how the Lord has moved within the lives of our extended family. Confession…. good for the soul. 🙂
I have a cousin who came to Albuquerque for work monthly for several years but never contacted us. He was always “too busy.”
I admit it has been tempting not to contact him when we occasionally visit the town where he lives. I wanted to even the score. I haven’t done that even though it is tempting and have visited him several times at his home. I’m always glad I took the time.
Admirable decision John. Easier said than done! So glad to hear God has blessed your obedience.
Betsy Everett says
Thanks Debbie. I am so thankful that I have been given Grace by Jesus even when I know some have not .
Indeed. What a gift.