Broken Record…

Ben Schoettel   -  


I’ll admit that referencing a record player will probably only be relevant and understood for so long, but I think the metaphor is useful here. When someone repeats the same statement or action over and over, it is common to refer to them as a “broken record.” When there is a scratch on a vinyl record, it is common for the needle to “skip” or repeat the same section over and over until you move the needle away from the damaged area. If you don’t, it won’t take long before the once relaxing mood that was set to the music turns into soundtrack of a horror film. As unpleasant as this experience can be, it is even more painful when it is a person instead of a record.

Sure, when Uncle Carl shares the same crazy stories every year around the holidays, or when a child repeats the newest phrase they learned over and over again, it can be harmless and even life-giving, but when it’s an addiction, pattern of dishonesty, or trail of hurtful actions, the scary movie becomes reality.

When I think about the connection between “forgive us our debts/debtors” and “lead us not into temptation/deliver us from evil” it feels linear. It feels like the request for forgiveness and ability to forgive is a means to get through the temptations and get on the other side of whatever we are facing that we would deem “evil.” Looking at this connection adds a deeper value to forgiveness (both giving and receiving.) The goal of Christianity, the will of God that is paved through Jesus Christ, is a path to reconciled relationships with God and humanity. (I think I said that last week, or every week… who’s the broken record now?) So, the role of forgiveness is not just to erase what happened, it is to lead one out of what caused the mistake and restore peace. If we are caught on a broken record of “sorry, I forgive you, sorry, I forgive you, sorry, I forgive you” over and over with either God or another person, things might be happening, but nobody is moving in the right direction. There are exchanges being said and heard, but the feelings are still very much unsettled.

I think that is why the prayer doesn’t end there. After we ask and grant forgiveness, we then surrender to God so he can move the needle. Our forgiveness is not a finish line, it is a course correction that leads us to victory.

David, who knew a lot about confessing major sins in his life, understood the fullness of God’s forgiveness. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103: 11-14)

But we also see from David throughout his songs that he constantly looked to God to move the needle in his life. “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long… deliver us from all our troubles.” (Psalm 25:4-5,22)

What we are to reflect on is the evidence in our own relationships that accepted apologies are recognitions of a scratch, but they don’t alone move the needle. That is what we call “repentance” or a change of a behavior pattern. Thankfully God is always gracious, and calls us to be the same, so we do not have to look at this path of repentance with a sense of guilt or shame. We can look at it as a freedom from the damaged parts of our lives and the journey to the sweet sounds of harmony with each other.

Above all else, remember to forgive yourself as well, and don’t try to chart this course alone. It is Jesus Christ that walks us through this, and it is his graceful hand that moves the needle.

  • Are there any scratches on the record of your life?
  • Is there something not right in our lives that seems to keep repeating?
  • Are we resistant to God moving the needle?