Today I realized how extraordinary the phrase “forgive me” is. I was feeling miserable in my guilt. And like a trapped animal casting around in my mind for justification, I looked for some mitigating factor: something I have done well, a bargaining chip to bring before God with which to plead, or I could accuse another person, or even accuse God.
As for “I’m sorry,” once I realized the severity of the indictment against me, I knew “I’m sorry” would never do. Why should the Judge of the entire Earth be interested in “I’m sorry,” which is—what—a description of my feelings? “I’m sorry.” Big deal. Who cares? Who could trust it? “Sorry,” even if it is an accurate momentary barometer, is an emotion that passes in half an hour, swept away by nothing more than turning on the radio or being distracted.
Furthermore, is this not “I” all over again? I am sorry. Hasn’t there been quite enough of “I,” of putting myself at the center of the drama? Hasn’t that been the cause of it all? What possible weight could “I’m sorry” have in this situation? How embarrassing that I ever thought to use it.
“Forgive me” is the last resort, the final stop on the Excuse Express. “Forgive me” is the request of a person totally devoid of capital. It is declaring yourself clean out of ammunition, a running up of the white flag. Your cupboard is bare, your eggs didn’t hatch, your gambit has flopped. You now put yourself in the hands of the enemy and hope utterly in his mercy.
“Forgive me” keeps it short. Acute fear of the Lord makes you speechless. And in any case, bulimic wordiness was a big part of the problem to begin with. There are no riders or qualifications now, nothing else to say. It is not “forgive me” because of this, or “forgive me” because of that. It is simultaneously the most brazen and humble of requests, having no basis at all for making it.
The wicked Haman threw himself upon Queen Esther’s skirts for mercy. You had better believe that if there had been anything else he could have done short of that, he would have—anything at all. He had already been reduced by degrees. But previously there was still a slim hope in himself. Whoever still has hope in himself and his own ingenuity will not drop to the floor before the one he has offended. This is the last stop, the absolute bottom.
“Forgive me.” What a wonderfully radical thing God invites us to say to Him.