The Empty Chalkboard


You lie awake, tossing and turning, night after night the same;
Blaming yourself, but more so, those who are really to blame:
What they said and did to you, how cruel, mean and heartless,
Leaving you angry, sad, despairing, frustrated and totally hopeless.

Listing the slights and injuries they committed without shame once,
Against the meek and vulnerable, who bore it with all patience,
How they cut you deep inside, a trauma that cannot be healed,
Brooding pain and anger about raw wounds you have concealed.

They have a massive debt to pay, accrued over such a long time,
They owe you respect and recompense, and apologies for their crime,
They deprived you of so very much, they should be made to pay!
So, sleepless, you lie awake at night to figure out a way.

While deep within, the disturbing thought comes over and over again:
If they lived for ever and a day, they still would not heed your pain.
And furthermore, some have died, and all have moved on in their lives,
In total ignorance of your loss, and how much you have been denied.

So get a mental chalkboard, set it up in imagination;
Take a chalk, and write the names that caused this deprivation.
They owe you a debt of care, do they not? And some appreciation,
Let’s write down the total sum of all this condemnation!

There! In black and white, the awesome debt they owe to you!
And if you could find a way, they’d pay – because you would force them to!
(Although, let’s face it, they’re all long gone, and now there is no way
On earth, or in this lifetime, ever to make them pay.)

But, if the debt could be resolved, you would be free at last,
Not struggling with all your problems stemming from the past.
The way they treated you, the consequences of their actions,
Making you feel unworthy, with inappropriate emotions.

Step back from the board one moment, I want to tell you a story:
It’s about a noble king of old, and the servant who worked for him.
This servant had your problem: someone owed him a huge sum,
And he threatened all kinds of evil against the unfortunate man.

He took the debtor by the throat, and shook him ’til he wailed,
And despite all pleas for mercy, the debtor’s pleadings failed.
“Please, be patient and I promise I will pay you without fail!”
But the servant wouldn’t listen, and threw him into jail.

Thus he got satisfaction, but what had he actually gained?
He still brooded about the debt being owed, and he was just as pained,
In fact his heart was darkened even more than it was before,
Because now he had the unjust fate of the debtor laid at his door.

One day, he heard he was summoned to the presence of the king.
He thought it was to hear some praise for the work he’d done for him.
Instead, he found himself the subject of a terrible scolding,
Because his friends had ratted on him, gone to the king and told him –

About the way he’d imprisoned his neighbour the day before,
And wouldn’t listen to his pleas, but decided to even the score.
“Now hear me”, said the king, looking angry and displeased,
“Do you recall this last October when you hadn’t paid your fees?

“And that you owed me thousands? You would have been jailed that day,
But when you vowed to me, tearfully, that you would certainly pay,
I had compassion on you, I was merciful to you,
I tore up that enormous bill, set you free from what was due!

“But now, I hear you called in a debt that your poor neighbour owed,
Threw him in jail, and hardened your heart against the dear old soul.
I forgave you thousands! But you jailed him for a few!
As you have done to others, so let it be done to YOU!”

And the servant had to go to jail ’til he could pay all his debt.
(Which took him longer than his neighbour’s jailtime, you can bet!)
So this is what happens to us, when we will not show pity,
And forgive those who do harm to us, even though they are guilty.

But WHY should we forgive those who offend and sin against us?
Especially if they won’t see their faults, continuing to betray us?
Well, just like the king’s servant, we are forgiven SO many things,
Because our King is merciful, and overlooks our sins.

Indeed, it’s MORE than that! The King of Heaven was so good
As to PAY OFF ALL THE DEBTS WE OWED by shedding his own blood.
We owed our lives, but He surrendered HIS life in our stead,
Releasing us from all our sin, and writing off the debt.

The very word he used, “forgiveness“, means “to let us free“,
Remitting all the debt we owed, giving us liberty.
So if you care to look now at the chalkboard’s other side,
And see in your imagination all the sins you try to hide –

All the failings, lies and unkind words, and mean things that you’ve said,
All the selfish acts, and broken vows, and people you’ve misled;
Vast and immeasurable is the sum YOU owe to God in debt,
But because God loves and saves you, he chooses to forget.

And even if you managed to be perfect in your eyes,
You’d still not have achieved the Christlike nature God requires!
You’d still need God’s forgiveness! You’d have failed Him just the same!
Are you really any different to the ones you hate and blame?

They DO owe us much, that can be truly said,
But most of them will owe that debt until they’re cold and dead.
There’s nothing we can do or say to bring them to conviction,
It’s God’s task to let them recognise THEIR dereliction

But WE can be changed ourselves, healed from hurt and pain,
Set free from the bad memories that bind us like a chain.
Look again at the chalkboard, with its sad list of regrets,
The things those people stole from you, the things they owe in debts,

Now take the board eraser, and swing it to and fro,
Wipe all those names and debts away, make all the writing go;
Say, “People, I still hurt from what you said and did to me,
But I have been forgiven, so now I set YOU free.

“I wipe the sum you owe me from the blackboard of my mind;
You won’t need to repay me for the loss you left behind;
I won’t hold it against you, and I will not make you pay,
If I have hurts and losses still, I write them off today.

“I’d like you to be conscious of the nature of your sin,
But justice comes from God alone, I’ll leave that task to Him.
And, apart from anything else, the Lord has said to me,
If YOU want to be forgiven, then set YOUR debtors free.


2 thoughts on “The Empty Chalkboard

  1. So true. When we understand that God sovereignly allows these trials, it helps to sustain us. That parable also God used in my life to help bring about the resolve to forgive. We must forgive if we want to be forgiven.

    Liked by 2 people

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