John slammed the door of his car and laid his head down on the steering wheel. Closing his eyes, he heaved a sigh and tried to let the stress of the day roll off his shoulders. Easier said than done. The tension in his neck could be felt clear down his spine. For a moment he wished for his wife's gentle hand to massage his aching muscles, but then he remembered what she had done and felt the anger begin to come back.
It had been one of 'those days,' when everything seemed to go wrong from the moment he stepped out of bed. He had turned off the alarm and stumbled into the shower, only to find the shampoo bottle empty. To top it off, there was only a little sliver left of the bar of soap, which slipped out of his hands and disappeared down the drain. He had tried to catch it with his foot, but his little pinky toe had gotten caught in the drain hole, causing him a pain that felt like he had stubbed the poor thing.
After getting dressed, John had come out into the kitchen for some coffee. Ellen, his wife, was making breakfast and the children were scattered around the living room trying to wipe the sleep out of their eyes.
"Good morning, dear," Ellen had smiled, then frowned. "Are you limping?"
Giving Ellen a quick kiss, John had shrugged. "It's nothing. Is breakfast almost ready?"
"The eggs will be ready in a few minutes, but I don't have any toast. We ran out of bread yesterday."
John had gone over to make his coffee. To his dismay, he found the can of coffee grounds almost empty. "Looks like we are out of a lot of things this morning," he commented. "Do you plan on going shopping today?"
"I plan on picking up a few items, but I cannot make a large shopping trip until you get paid on Friday."
John felt his irriation rising. He knew it was not Ellen's fault, but why did they have to run out of everything at the same time? As he sat down and ate his breakfast, one of the children came over and handed him a dripping wet cell phone.
"Sorry, Daddy, but I dropped this in the toilet." The little boy began to walk away as if nothing was wrong.
John's eyes grew wide and then narrowed in anger. "Why did you have my cell phone? How did it end up in the toilet?" He stood up, like a lion ready to pounce.
"It was on the edge of the cabinet in the bathroom. I bumped it when I tried to wash my hands." the little boy replied.
John remembered he had left it in the bathroom the night before. He should have plugged it in the kitchen to charge, but the telephone had distracted him. Fuming, John sat down again. This was going to be a long day.
Later on that morning, his boss had called him into his office and scolded him for not having a certain project finished by the deadline, which had been yesterday morning. Another coworker had accused him of eavesdropping on their conversation as he put a file on a desk nearby, and a crazy driver had cut him off causing him to miss his exit during a drive to an important business meeting. He had arrived late, and since he did not have his phone to call ahead, he had been severely reprimanded.
The final straw had been when his wife had called him at work and informed him she had been in an accident and the car was going to need some repair. The good part was the fact that nobody had been hurt, but they could not afford to be without a car, let alone afford the cost of the repairs.
As John sat with his head on the wheel, a gentle voice spoke to his heart. "John," he heard the voice say. John quickly picked his head up and looked around. He did not see anyone. Who had spoken to him?
"John," the voice repeated.
Still puzzled, John looked around as he nodded. "Is that you, Lord?"
"Yes, son, it is Me. Do you think you have been treated unfairly today?"
Tears came to John's eyes as he thought about all that he had been through that day.
"Yes, Lord, so much has happened to me today and it just keeps building. I don't think I can take anymore. I am thankful You protected my wife, but I am angry with her for not being more careful in the parking lot. She should have seen that other car backing out! Besides, my boss could have allowed more time for that project. How did he expect me to get it all done in two week's time all by myself? Plus, now I need to buy a new cell phone since my son dropped it into the toilet, and not having a phone handy caused me to be late for my meeting. I was possibly going to get a raise, but after today, it looks like they may even cut back on my pay." John felt the anger and bitterness rise up until it felt like it was going to choke him.
"John, see that piece of slate in the back seat?"
John turned and looked behind him. On the back seat, he noticed that one of his children had left a little chalkboard there, as well as a piece of chalk. "I see it, Lord."
"Take it and write down all the incidents that you were hurt today, emotionally and physically."
John picked it up and looked at it. "But it isn't big enough!" He decided he should write small. For fifteen minutes he listed all the injustices that had occurred to him during the day, trying his best to fit them all in. When he was done, he laid it on the seat next to him.
"Now, on the other side, write down all the sins you committed today."
John frowned. "What have I done today that would be a sin?"
"Let me remind you," spoke the gentle voice. "You did not thank Me for a new day this morning. You only thought about yourself and never asked Me to bless your day when you awoke. You immediately blamed your wife for all the things that you had run out of before you left the house, but did you stop to think that you had used the items too? You got angry at your child for dropping your phone, but I warned you last night, in a still, small voice, to move it. You did not listen and left the room without another thought to it. I am glad you thanked me for watching over your wife, but you should not have become mad at her for the accident. If you had fixed the back lights when you first knew about them being burnt out, the other car would have seen her backing up."
John stared down at his hands as the realization of all his sins piled up on his back. "Dear God, how can you love me after I have done all these things?"
"Do you still love your children when they do wrong?" the voice asked.
"Yes. I may be angry, but I still love them."
"Write them all down, go home, and in the morning I will show you how I can still love you."
John humbly wrote all the things he had done that day on the back of the chalkboard. When he was through, he drove home and the evening went by in a blur. He crawled into bed heavy hearted, sad he had hurt his Lord and his family by his actions, but still angry at the world for being so unfair.
The next morning, he woke up to his alarm clock and turned it off. He stood up and stretched. Suddenly he remembered what the Lord had told him the night before and knelt down by his bed.
"Dear Lord, thank You for giving me another day, for watching over us last night, and for loving me even when I fail You. You said You would show me how You can still love me even after all that I did wrong. I am ready to see now."
"Look at the slate," a voice said.
John stood up and walked over to the desk where he had set the slate down the night before. On one side it still listed all the injustices he had written down about other people, but when he turned it over to read the list of his sins, all he saw was a blank slate. "Ellen," he asked his wife as she walked out of the bathroom. "Did you touch the little chalkboard that was here on the desk?"
She shook her head. "No, I didn't touch it."
"Were any of the children in here? Maybe they touched it." He thought they might have erased some of it.
"No, none of the children were in here, as far as I know." She left the room to go wake up the children and fix breakfast.
John stared at the blank side. "Where is the list of my sins, Lord? Why are all my sins erased?"
"Do you not remember how I told you yesterday that I would show how much I love you? There is the proof right in front of you. My mercy is new every morning. It is because of My mercies that you are not consumed. My compassion for you never fails." (Lam 3:22-23)
John fell to his knees and asked the Lord to forgive him for his failures and hardness of heart. Again, the gentle voice spoke, "Look at the slate. I already have; and just as I have done this for you, I ask that you do the same for the others in your life. Forgive the people who have wronged you, and let go of all the circumstances that seem unfair. Erase the side with the injustices listed on it or else bitterness will 0vertake you and poison you."
John studied the side of the chalkboard with all the unfair treatment he had received. "Lord, please help me to forgive those who have wronged me. I will do as You say and trust You to take care of everything." With a tissue, he wiped off all the chalk scratchings he had made the day before. Instantly he felt a burden lift off his shoulders and he felt free once again. "Thank You, Lord, for loving me. Thank You for forgiving me. Thank You for giving me a clean slate on both sides. Help me to always focus on You in every circumstance, no matter what happens throughout my day." And with that John began a new day, free of guilt and free of anger and bitterness to others around him.
It is only because of His mercies that we are not consumed. Great is His faithfulness!