I’m a terrible record keeper. When I became a nurse, I had no idea that a large part of the job was going to be keeping good and accurate records of the care I had given and how my patients had responded to that care. My first job, fresh and green out of nursing school, was quite overwhelming in this regard. It was at the height of the late eighties nursing shortage and if a nurse had a pulse and a nurse’s license, they could get a job.
In those days, there was no orientation to speak of, other than, “Here’s the break room and here’s where you clock in and out.” They just expected you to figure out the rest. Thinking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t kill someone. As a brand new nurse, I was given ten or so patients to keep up with during my shift; just as many as any other nurse. (So much for easing the newbie in)
I can remember taking each patient’s chart into their room with me, sitting down in that room, and writing up my notes on that patient. If I didn’t do that, I soon learned that I could write a book on the wrong patient, and that was long before the days of computer charting where you could cut, paste, or delete it all with the click of a button.
I don’t take care of patients anymore, not the way I did then. Yet in my current job, I still have to keep meticulous records; important records that eat up a lot of time and effort preparing. It is a matter of focus, and like I usually say, things are generally about focus.
I once worked with a person who kept meticulous records. To say they were dedicated to it would not do their ability justice. They could tell you at any time anything about the comings and goings of their co-workers. When their co-workers arrived at work and the minute they left. Did you want to know how long someone took for lunch? It was there, in the records. Just in case anyone wanted to see it.
Only no one did. You see, this person had an attendance problem. They had a problem with coming to work on time, and staying at work until it was time to leave, and they had been counseled on it. So instead of focusing on improving themselves, this person decided to record the deeds of others in attempt to throw the spotlight elsewhere.
We can all do that, sometimes. It’s so much easier to keep a record, written or in our minds, of the wrongs perpetrated by others than it is to address our own shortcomings. We like to justify our own sin by comparing it to the sins of those around us. So we start keeping records. We elevate ourselves by degrading other people. Do other people mess up? Sure they do. Just as we do.
1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, tells us what love does and does not do. One of the things that love does not do is keep a record of wrongs. It’s right there in verse five:
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Notice the part leading up to the part about record keeping. Love does not dishonor others. Love is not self-seeking. And love is not easily angered. These three are the necessary ingredients to the final statement in this verse. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Keeping a record of wrongs dishonors others. It is a self-serving exercise, and we use it to justify our anger toward others.
Think about it, if I am upset with someone, my mind tends to want to go to a list of offenses perpetrated by said person. And I find, as I tick through the list, that my level of anger toward this person goes up. A lot. I can work myself into quite a lather in pretty short order. And I feel justified in my anger. I mean, just look at the list!
So what’s a girl to do? Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts. We have to be careful what we store up in our hearts. We must allow the peace of Jesus, which Paul tells us in Philippians, which surpasses all understanding, to guard our hearts and minds so that stuff never takes root to begin with.
The kind of love that Christ calls us to display sets aside lists of wrongs and offenses. Ephesians 3 tells us that this love surpasses knowledge. It doesn’t mean that the offenses didn’t happen. Sure they did. I offend, you offend, all God’s children offend. But the love we are called to have for one another surpasses this knowledge.
It means we let it go. As my mom says, “Like water off a duck’s back”.
How often do we fill our hearts and minds full of this clutter? Lists of wrongs. Records of offense. If we think about it, we can let this record keeping take up a great deal of our time and energy. It’s petty. And it’s stupid. And our heavenly Father knows how damaging it is to us and how it can easily rob us of the peace He can give.
We are heading into a new year. Another chance to start again. What if we just let the pettiness go? What if we tossed out our record books, and just let the love of God surpass all that stuff? I think 2016 would be a much more joyful year, indeed.