An iceberg. Pure glacial ice floating in a clear and cool ocean and bathed in glorious sunshine.
Have you ever heard of a fatburg? Before reading further, I expect some may read this while having lunch or a snack and there are some subjects one should avoid while eating. This is probably one of them.
A fatberg is a congealed lump of fat which traps, wet wipes, diapers and similar such items found in sewer systems. They form in the sewer systems and can grow to monstrous sizes. One of the most recent fatberg discoveries is also one of the biggest ever. Recently, a 250-metre-long (820 ft) fatberg weighing over 140 tonnes (150 tons) was found under Whitechapel, London. Even with workers working seven days a week, officials say it could take as much as two months to destroy it.
Ughhh. I’m grateful that my job is not waking up to wage battle on a 140 tonne fatberg.
So, as disgusting as this is, I am sure you can appreciate the array of analogies this fatberg lends itself to. But let’s just start with one. A fatberg as a very compelling representation of unforgiveness.
People offend me, say and do hurtful things to me, disappoint me, betray me, ignore me, accuse me. Same thing happen to you? Of course. (Quit expecting that is going to change, it’s not, but you can change) When these things happen to me, and you, we have to do something with the offense in us. The offense is kind of like the lard left in the pan after frying hamburger or the wetwipes after changing the baby. What do we do with that? Some people just flush it down the drain. Out of sight, out of mind. Just make it go “away”.
What fatbergs prove is that if you don’t dispose of fats, oils diapers etc. in a proper way they will collect and congeal and harden and cause a really stomach turning sewer blockage that eventually works its way back to you. Same thing happens with hurts, disappointments and offenses.
What do we do with the offenses we are left with through the normal interaction with others in the course of life? Send them down the drain? An offense is like a diaper – it stinks (often with someone else’s poo) and you can roll it in a ball and it may disappear down the drain. But, it is not gone, and it is not decomposing. What about the your anger that is all heated up? Pour that down the drain too? It starts down the pipe and begins to clump into bitterness and then it sticks to the diaper. Now we’ve got a real problem growing but it is somewhere underground and out of sight.
This is how unforgiveness works. If we don’t actually address the issue and pursue forgiveness we can make it “go away” but we are deceiving ourselves. We’ve just pushed it down the pipe and it is going to be even harder to access and deal with down the pipe than it is in the first place.
“It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower
and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.”
Matt Rimmer head of waste networks, Thames Water, describing the fatberg in London Sewer.
God has given us such an awesome choice. We can choose to hold the offense in unforgiveness and try to wash it down the drain on our own. Or, we can choose to forgive and hand the offensive to Jesus.
The application is so simple. Don’t try to flush something that needs to be forgiven.
I am not pretending forgiveness is easy but it is the life-giving way and it gets easier with practice.
Here is my very simplified process of forgiveness.
1. Own it. 2. Move it. 3. Disown it.
Own it – when I feel irritated or offended I take time to figure out what it is that hurts. It has to be defined with some clarity so I know what I am going to forgive and who I am forgiving. I first need to own the feeling of offense.
Move it – once I own it I then hold the power to decide what I am going to do with it. This is where the freedom I have in Jesus comes into play. I have some choices about where I want to put this thing that has hurt me. I move it to the presence of Jesus.
Disown it – In the presence of Jesus, I say, “I don’t want this. I don’t want to carry it and I don’t want to flush it.” Jesus will take it, he has every time I’ve asked. When it’s no longer mine, I am free.
The only way to clear a fatburg is to break it down and remove it.
The only way to remove the offenses that stopping up our lives is to break them down (own it) and move them.
“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”