The mirror

Chris, the handyman, knocked on our front door. I let him in and explained the job I had planned for him. Lugging his tool bag, he followed me down the stairs to the basement bathroom.  

“Here’s the mirror to be installed,” I said, pointing to the slim box leaning against the wall.

He plunked his tool bag on the floor. While he rummaged through it, he told me about his handyman work and about his other job speaking on restorative justice—something that had started twenty years ago with kids and continued now with inmates in the Stillwater, Lino Lakes, and Faribault prisons.

“It’s all about forgiveness,” he said. “If you realize you’ve been forgiven much, you’ll be able to forgive much.”

The handyman’s assessment of life and freedom pinned me to my spot. Wisdom had walked into my house with a tool bag, and just like that my to-do list upstairs stopped hollering to me.

“When someone wrongs you, it’s like they owe you a debt they might never repay.” He sliced the tape along the edge of the cardboard and tapped the mirror’s bag of fasteners into his hand. “There’s a parable about a man who owed a king a lot of money.”

I nodded. “I know that one.”

In the parable, a servant was unable to repay all the money he owed the king. As a result, the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and all he owned be sold to repay the debt. The man dropped to his knees before the king. “Please be patient with me! I’ll pay back everything I owe you in time.” The king took pity on the servant, canceled his debt, and let him go free. But the man went out and found his fellow servant who owed him much less than he had owed the king. He grabbed the man and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” The fellow servant shook with fear. “Be patient, and I’ll pay you back everything!” But the first servant refused. He demanded his fellow servant be thrown into prison until he could repay the debt. The story traveled back to the king, and he became angry, calling the first servant back in. “I canceled your debt because you begged me to,” he said. “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant as I had on you?” In anger, the king threw him into prison to pay back his debt in full.

“If you realize you’ve been forgiven much, you’ll be able to forgive much,” he said again, rifling through his tool box. “And then there’s the whole topic of forgiving yourself, but hang on. I forgot my stud finder in the truck.”

Chris jogged up the basement stairs, and I heard the front door open and close again.

Forgiveness for others. How many talks had I heard on the topic? Many. But self-forgiveness? I couldn’t recall even one sermon on the subject.

I strode to the nearby TV cabinet and located a pen and tablet, because I didn’t want to forget.

Chris reappeared. “Now for our next episode of 'Deep Thoughts with the Handyman'.” He chuckled. “Where was I?”

I perched on the arm of the couch just outside the bathroom door, my pen ready. “Forgiving yourself.”

As he penciled marks on the wall where the mirror would hang, he told me his story of rebellion and about the following years of regret. “Then God turned on a light. I finally realized I didn’t need to keep punishing myself for my past choices. My suffering didn’t bring anything of value. I laid it all out for Him.”

I too wished I could snuff out some of my past choices. Long ago I had relegated them to a place far behind me as I looked forward. They were gone, weren’t they?

The memories only stung now when I dredged them back into my consciousness. So, what about self-forgiveness? Had I done it? Was poking the past back into its box when memories threatened to climb out and ruffle my peace the same thing?

Finished with mounting the clips that would hold the glass in place, Chris turned toward the mirror I had propped against the wall.

“Need a hand?” I said. “It’s pretty big.”

“That’d be good.”

We pulled the thirty-six by sixty-inch mirror out of the cardboard packaging, muscled it above the two sinks, and slid it into the mounted clips. I pressed the glass against the wall while Chris tightened the screws.

With the new mirror in place, I could finally take a good look at myself.

Forgiveness. And now self-forgiveness. I couldn’t do the work alone.

And I didn’t have to.


*Click here for more of Chris' story.

The bathroom mirror.jpg

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.