no trespass sign on post near wooden building

“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). 

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14,15, NKJV). 

Beyond the rote recitation of our Lord’s prayer, we find no mystery except the mystery we ignore. Jesus could be no more direct in his admonition against hypocritical prayers made for public show, no more direct in asking us to pray behind closed doors. And why behind closed doors? 

Alone, no one can hide his trespass. God knows our needs before we ask, so the Bible says. Why pray? Why ask for what God knows we need? Prayer, in simple form, is presence before God, a silent syllabary of admittance. Asking God admits in screaming silence—to Him and to ourselves. When we pray, God turns our words back to us, leads us to some realization we did not know, some need He knew, and we did not. And in our Lord’s prayer, I find this truth most evident in the trespass. 

When I was young, swinging from a rope into a black Edisto river, I let go, untethered from good sense, exhilarated by joy, tempting fear just the same, and jumped into the unknown. I remember, photographed against the sky, Sand Hill cranes flying in formation, signaling a season’s passing. I remember gentle snowflakes falling lightly and falling until their mass proved something more. I remember seeing my friend as just a friend, seeing a man and not his color until I was told he was as black as the river Edisto. Each was a wonderment brimming with joy until some trespass tarnished my innocence. 

Yes—there are times when we trespass and do not know it, times we are trespassed against and the offender unaware. There are intrusions waking us to a harshness and truth the world is not as we wish. Alone, behind closed doors, we seek God’s forgiveness for our own, for others, for the known and unknown. And God turns our words back to us and makes us all the more aware. 

Yes-I know the Bible thumper is not as he appears, winter comes again, and my friend is as black as the Edisto. But in every trespass, there waits a forgiveness to come, to tell us all is well. Every trespass against me, known and unknown, informs me. Every trespass, known and unknown, by my hand reveals me. 


I fear the river, 

I mourn the season’s turn and the something more, 

I know my friend is as black as the river Edisto. 


Each a trespass 

The offenders unaware that 

Intrusions wake the wordless syllabary within. 

God knows we need. 

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV). 

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