So. Today I was given the chance to ponder forgiveness and prayer.
I spent an hour shoveling a mound of garbage (of varying degrees of scariness, from simple pieces of rotting fruit all the way up to putrefying meat and soiled bed clothes) into the dumpsters it was supposed to be in but wasn't because the garbage collectors who had lasted emptied said dumpsters had failed (just like last week, and the week before that) to correctly position them back under their respective garbage shoots.
As I shoveled (and occasionally suppressed the urge to bring up my breakfast) I got to thinking about those responsible for the mess and noted wryly that the 'Christian' thing to do here would to be to forgive the miscreants. Another few minutes of swearing under my breath and it occurred to me that this kind of situation was exactly the thing Christ had in mind when he told us to pray for those who persecute you.
I wasn't really in the mood for prayer and instead began to construct arguments as to why praying for the misanthropes responsible for this disaster zone wasn't necessary. They weren't very good arguments and promptly fell to bits the minute I presented them to God (who seemed to think that Matthew 5:43-44 was self-explanatory and wasn't impressed with my semantics).
So I ranted to God. I told him how unfair it was that He expected me to expend concern and effort for people who clearly didn't have the decency to do the same for me. I complained about how foul the task before me was and pointed out (repeatedly) how easy it would have been for the garbage collectors to have pushed the dumpsters an extra half foot forward. I asked God what possible reason could exist that I should be praying for these men?
As my diatribe progressed I conceded now and then that there might possibly exist circumstances for which prayer could be fairly offered. In my mind I listed things I would hate to have happen to me, things for which I could be convinced to pray for those careless collectors, were they suffering that fate. I began to climb into their skins as Atticus had told me to.
And somewhere in the middle of all this, without even realising it, I began to pray for them.
Huck Fin once noted that you can't pray a lie, but something equally true is that you can't begin to pray for someone without beginning to love them and, to add insult to injury, you can't begin to love someone without beginning for forgive them. I still wish the garbage collectors would clean up their act, but I no longer bear them any ill-will for today's events. Huh, didn't see that coming.
Of course, if they do it again next week I'll probably have another hissy-fit with God; but I guess that's all a part of the learning/sanctification process.