a little chiastic structure

I noticed a license plate today that made me think. A woman in a mini-van was speeding along beside me into a left turn lane that actually didn’t exist yet. You know… she wanted to turn left, but had to drive along the median to make it into the turn lane while the arrow was still green.

ALWAYS L8

Cute.

But I was thinking, “Why do you want to resign yourself to that? Being late isn’t a positive attribute in life. Why not work toward change? Why not start telling yourself you are ON TIME?”

Maybe putting that on her license plate was an excuse to the world: I’m ALWAYS L8, so just deal with me and get out of my way. I’m in a hurry.

I studied a similar concept this morning with a group of women from my church. We get together on Tuesday mornings to discuss a Bible study on the book of Esther. I know. It probably sounds kind of boring. But the author, Beth Moore, has a way of bringing to life a story that we have heard countless times before. And she has a way of challenging us with some amazing truths.

Today we learned about a literary device called “chiastic structure”. (To my Bible study mates, I might not explain this properly… ) To explain it very loosely, the chiastic structure is when a key part of the story reverses itself and becomes the opposite. A problem becomes a solution. A negative becomes a positive.

For example, “Don’t live to eat. Eat to live.” Or “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

This seems to be a theme in my life lately. I have been learning that I don’t have to BE what I have always been. The very thing that has been a challenge in my past can be a source of joy in my future.

A prime example for me is on the topic of forgiveness.

The chiastic structure might look something like this:

Unforgiveness limits choices.
Choosing forgiveness gives freedom.

(OK… I know my structure wasn’t exactly chiastic, but just hang with me anyway. It’s the point that counts, right?)

I didn’t even realize until a few years ago that my brain had been trained to hold a grudge. Of course, I knew that I should forgive when it came to a close friend or a family member. But what about a stranger, someone who cut me off while driving, a teacher or even an institution, such as a business or school? It’s OK to hold a grudge against someone or some THING, right?

But unforgiveness limits choices:

Think of the pizza place that forgot half of the order for the hot lunch program at school and the kids had to miss recess to eat the late pizza. “I will never order from that restaurant again!” I don’t need to forgive a pizza place, do I?

But that choice limits me from eating their very tasty pizza. Or I could choose forgiveness. Pizza delivery drivers are humans after all, aren’t they?

Or how about the doctor who made tons of mistakes when I gave birth to my first born? (A c-section without proper anesthetic? A cut bladder? A baby with a horribly traumatic birth?)

Without forgiveness I might never have another child. Worse, I would blame the doctor for challenges that have come up through life. The unforgiveness turns to bitterness and soon I’m blaming that doctor I barely knew for a long list of issues. Or I can choose forgiveness and enjoy my healing and that of my son. She is a person, after all, who makes mistakes.

How about a relative who makes me mad? Or a friend who violates a trust?

Unforgiveness could limit me from attending a family gathering. Or from making new friends. Or seeking reconciliation. Choosing forgiveness gives me freedom to have lots of healthy relationships in the future.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set boundaries (limits), if necessary, in situations to avoid repeated abuse. Would I let that doctor deliver ANOTHER child of mine?!? NO WAY! But does that mean I can’t forgive her?

You know what’s crazy about forgiveness? It seems that the minute I have (attempted at least) to forgive everyone from my past, there’s someone new to forgive. Someone makes a snide remark. A driver cuts me off in traffic. Or it could be something truly momentous. Lots of people are faced with the choice to forgive a complete stranger who has altered their life forever through a car accident or a crime.

And that’s why it’s so important to live a lifestyle of forgiveness… so the automatic choice in every situation is to forgive, rather than hold a grudge.

I have a long way to go on this issue and many others. (This one was easiest to explain.) But I’m confident that God can bring a chiastic change in my life…. a crisscross… a reversal… a sudden turn.

I wouldn’t want to be ALWAYS L8.

What about you? I know this post goes way deeper than usual. But I hope that it has challenged you in some way!

You also will enjoy this post related to our Beth Moore study:

if you read nothing else, you might want to read this

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