Forgive and Grow
Week 38 of 52 Churches in 52 Weeks:
Deep Roots with T.D. Jakes at The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
I remember the night Cedric Diggory died.
I was eating Orville Redenbacher’s while watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Ten, my then-girlfriend. I was late boarding the Hogwarts Express after the Harry Potter hype train had taken off. I found the first three Potter films irritatingly kid-friendly, but Ten convinced me Goblet of Fire was different, a transition that would shake the Wizarding World to it’s core. She raved about Cedric, a character who symbolized kindness and honesty. When Vordemort killed him, his death invited a world that would become progressively darker with raised stakes, strained loyalties, and mounting deception. I didn’t know it at the time, but the same things would come to pass in our relationship.
Before Vordemort’s embodiment, the four Twizard Tournament champions prepared to enter a maze as the third and final task. Before entering, Dumbledore’s warning to Harry and Cedric was symbolic.
“In the maze, you’ll find no dragons or creatures of the deep. Instead, you’ll face something even more challenging. You see, people change in the maze. Oh, find the cup if you can. But be very wary. You could just lose yourselves along the way.”
Like life, the maze itself was the obstacle. Harry and Cedric entered lost, alone, overruled by a binding and scary silence. What wasn’t happening was most terrifying, rooted in mystery that lurked behind fog and shadows, forcing your imagination to fill in what was behind the next corner. The walled hedges were seemingly alive, unpredictable, contracting and moving at random times. It’d waste no time to pull out its roots and spiral out of the ground, ready to snatch you if you stood in the same place too long.
Near the finish, Harry and Cedric spotted the Cup and the race was on. As they sprinted, branches reached out and lassoed Cedric’s ankles to slam him into the ground. His face ate dirt, the roots gripped him, twisting and turning to reel him in as Cedric’s fingers clawed into the ground to save himself. Harry could have left him behind, lose his character in pursuit of material victory. But instead, Harry turned around to witness Cedric’s struggle. He extended his wand and reached out.
To help a friend, Harry had a change of heart.
“For a moment there, I thought you were gonna let it get me,” said Cedric.
“For a moment, so did I,” Harry replied.
After my break-up with Ten, she sent a final email to me. She wrote that if I ever had a change of heart, that I too should reach out.
I never did.
For the longest time, I didn’t want to look inside her Chamber of Secrets. I needed to remove my Mad-Eye from her social media feed so I didn’t see anything that could hurt. After all, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named slithered his way between our journey. My mind was a Time-Turner, replaying moments of what went wrong.
But at the same time, I realized her heart must have felt like a prisoner of Azkaban. She needed to find her inner-Sirious Black and escape from the thought of wedding bells chained to her ankles. The problem was I had been holding her back, guarding her, a boyfriend in Dementor’s clothes that was sucking the soul out of her future. She wanted me as a friend, and I would have done anything to cast a Patronus charm to protect her heart. But break-ups don’t work that way. When she made a break for it, I knew I had to put on a Cloak of Invisibility. Disappear so she could live the authentic experience she needed without my interference.
I was convinced it was the right thing to do. But was it the right thing to do for so long? Somewhere along the way — something didn’t feel right.
I had forgiven in word — I failed to forgive by action.
July 19, 2015–9:00 am Worship Service: The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
Due to my innate ability of getting lost, I was chased by the cops at the largest African-American megachurch in the U.S. to start my 38th church visit in 52 Weeks.
This was all a misunderstanding. In Texas, police will line up the streets for traffic control when it comes to megachurches, especially for one the size of the Potter’s House in Dallas. Attendance will often exceed 20,000 for it’s Sunday morning service. Through the maze of traffic in Dallas, I happened to take a wrong turn when they were waving me through. The next thing I knew, three police officers were running after me shouting “STOP!”, “You can’t go in there!” This is while I laid pedal to the metal at a blistering 5 MPH in the church parking lot.
After finding the correct parking lot, people from all over the country were coming to hear T.D. Jakes pipe the Word of God. The bishop can speak a word now that goes back into your past, heals your yesterday, secures your today, and anchors your tomorrow. Even Michael Irvin, the legendary Dallas Cowboys receiver, was spotted in the front row to catch some T.D. preachin’.
That day, Jakes’s words were like a portkey, transporting my thinking to another place. I haven’t been able to extract the memory for awhile.
The sermon teased a passage that was all too familiar.
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” — Matthew 17:20
He was hinting at Ten’s favorite passage, eerily teasing it to preach forgiveness for the one person I couldn’t do it for. Before Jakes went any further, he twisted it, using a different passage to metaphor the same mustard seed against the stubborn roots of a sycamine tree.
“And the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you might say unto this sycamine tree, be plucked by the root, and be planted into the sea, and it should obey you’” — Luke 17:6
As Jakes described, Jesus said you can tear down a sycamine tree if you have the faith of a mustard seed. He used a sycamine tree for a reason. A tree has to grow, and we seed content that grows deep inside our heart. It can cause us to become hateful, spiteful — bewitched into someone we aren’t. You think you know someone, and then they become emotionally unavailable and attack others with bitterness and hatefulness. If you get sick living like that, cast it out or you won’t be free. That’s easier said then done.
I read somewhere that in preparation for the last task, Hagrid needed only a month to grow the maze’s hedges some 20 feet. The sycamine tree could also grow 20 feet, but what was underground grew far deeper than what was growing on top. You could cut off branch after branch, but it would keep growing since the roots were too deep. Because sycamines could grow quick in any climate, the wood was used for caskets. As Jakes put it, “if you don’t kill the sycamore tree, the sycamore tree will kill you”.
Bitterness unresolved will kill your opportunities, and if lost for too long, the branches will reach out and bury you. If you don’t get it by the root, you end up entombed by it.
Life is too short. After my visit to the Potters House, I had to put on my Sorting Hat to categorize my thoughts. Despite my best intentions, the more time that has tick-tocked on, I’ve noticed bitterness had grown within my own heart. When you try to numb your heart from feeling, the mind starts working. When the mind goes to work, the roots begin to grow and wrap themselves around the heart. The mind will tell you its a wall to protect you, yet that’s a lie. The consequence is the opposite.
Like Cedric, hate and bitterness will destroy those who don’t deserve it. Roots dig deep into the past, choking out the present, and will wipe out the future.
Only forgiveness can destroy the horcrux that latched into my heart. Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that I hit back. I’m done. If I keep fighting the past, then I stay trapped in the maze. It’s believing deep in your heart that no matter where life might lead, God has something good for you and it will always lead to the right place.
The same roots that grab onto disappointment will choke out happiness. Uproot it. Forgive and grow from the experience. Let it teach you.
When I got home, I sat at my computer ready to write back to Ten. “Forgive and grow” I told myself. If I’m to blog about forgiveness, this and that, then I need to do it myself.
So I sat there. I looked at the keyboard and didn’t touch a letter. God help me.
I still couldn’t forgive.