The problem, or actually better said, the privilege of growing up with a musician father, is that I was never much into the music that was popular while I was growing up. Most of my early days were spent listening to the classic rock station or some old Steely Dan record as I was shuttled to and from school and random sports and eventually band practice. While I have certainly now cultivated a musical identity of my own, I would be foolish not to admit that some of the songs that do the most for me in terms of nostalgia are songs that I wasn’t alive for the release of. For a lot of reasons that I won’t get into here, there has always been a soft spot in my ear for Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter.” Now young, naive Michael didn’t have much idea what that song was actually about, but one thing is for sure, I thought it was about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a strange concept. It isn’t really natural to us humans. To accept and move on when someone has wronged us seems counterintuitive. We want revenge; we like holding grudges. Even when we have “forgiven” someone, we change the way we view them, the way we interact with them. Maybe sometimes that is for the better.
God’s forgiveness is nothing like ours. God loves a broken and contrite heart, not because He wants to see us broken but rather because He wants us to see our need for Him. When we get to that place, like David was in Psalm 51, He desires to blot out our sin. Some translations use the word “delete” I like that word. God doesn’t hold grudges. When we repent, He desires to forget our sin completely. Add that to the fact that God does treat us differently when He forgives us. He treats us better! It is the glorious result of a life lived to the glory of God, warts and all. We don’t need to worry about God’s love for us when we come to Him repentant; His promises remain secure.
I’m sure Don Henley, in 1989, didn’t think that his song would get me thinking about the Lord’s forgiveness and how different it is from his own experience with whichever woman he was writing the song about, but I sure am glad he wrote it. After all, “I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter because the flesh will get weak and the ashes will scatter. So, I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness”.