Can a Mustard Seed Forgive?

Forgiveness is one of those words I find somewhat mysterious and incomprehensible. It is very elusive when I want to pin it to myself like a badge when I need its honor; yet neither can I easily buffet it away when I want to ignore its convicting implications. Like a fly at a picnic, it hovers tantalizingly out of reach, yet close enough to remind me of its existence.

I have learnt a lot about forgiveness from other people. Some have reminded me of why I find it hard to forgive. Others remind me that I, too, need to be forgiven. Still others inspire me by the undeserved grace they offer, unconditionally, to those who have wronged and crushed and broken them; they forgive – even if the perpetrator cannot or will not see the need or the gift.

Yet even with the above insights bestowed upon me, I still find within myself the hard kernel of gracelessness, hurt, unforgiveness. Not exactly the happiest of self-discoveries.

I don’t like forgiving. It’s difficult and painful, and it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been wronged. I’d much rather that people didn’t offend or hurt me in the first place.

Couldn’t there be a limit to my forgiveness? Couldn’t I be selective as to how and upon whom I bestow it? It is so much effort to rally my weary conscience and go in search of that elusive, impractical, and often painful “word that is an action but should really be a lifestyle”.


I was still complaining to what I felt was the un-inclined ear of God, when I read with interest a discussion concerning this very issue between Jesus and his disciples – a brief conversation that I hadn’t really noticed in previous perusals of the book of Luke.

The Son of God had just informed his followers, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Well, we all know just how easy this is.

The first time? I’m a good person, so… OK. The second time? Yeah, getting harder, but… alright. The third time? Now it’s really starting to hurt…

By this stage, I am feeling rather depressed about my forgiveness – or lack of.

The disciple’s fervent plea echoes the desperation and panic I feel at such an impossible mandate. They cried out, “Increase our faith!” Jesus’ reply was swift and unexpected. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”

Wait a minute. As small as a mustard seed? Yep, that’s about how big my forgiveness capacity is. Yet Jesus said… that’s OK?

A light ignited my dimmed brain, and suddenly I understood – really understood, deep within in my heart. It doesn’t matter so much how big my capacity is for forgiveness, but rather that I acquire the capacity at all.

A tiny mustard seed is a start. My mighty oak of forgiveness may be more wishful thinking than tangible fact, but even I know the truth: once a seed takes root it will only grow bigger.

So with my mustard seed in hand and my heart open like fertile soil, today is the day!

To plant that seed, no matter how small. To choose to forgive, every time. To, by God’s grace, grow and flourish in faith and in that beautiful word – forgiveness.

© Emma McGeorge



The Writer’s Song

The pen is dancing on the page

The music in the word

This sheet, uncluttered, is the stage

The songs, the kind unheard

In elegance, each word steps out

Their cadence sets the scene

Emotion lingers in each stroke

Some dark, and some serene

The letters flit across the floor

The ink a velvet dress

Of loops and lines and dots and swirls

Of candour and finesse

A masterpiece in black and white

A musical unsung

But captured in each silent pose

A memory lives on

© Emma McGeorge – 10 May 2013

The Words

They told her she was worthless. They told her she was stupid, unintelligent and then some.

They told her that she deserved the beatings and abuse. That her greatest fault lay in existence, and that she lived to be crushed and crumpled at their whim.

They told her that the angels wept the day she was born – that day when heaven itself was darkened – and that she would never amount to anything or do anything or be anything. Or anyone.

She heard the words. She believed the words. She was the words.

She wore the words like ill-fitting garments upon her ugly self, and heard them echo like gunshots in her empty heart, and carried the weight of their contempt in her broken and bleeding soul.

Silence and sorrow were her companions. Tears were pointless. Hope was inconceivable.

Love was a mysterious and untouchable unknown.

The words were spoken. The life was shaped. The soul was scarred.


They told her she was beautiful. They told her she was smart and sassy, had personality and charm and then some.

They told her that the world was an undeserving admirer of her goodness and grace. That her existence brought life, and that she lived to bestow beauty and blessing in return.

They told her that the angels wept the day she was born – their joy a mere reflection of God’s delight in her – and that whatever she did or became, she was first and foremost His precious child.

She heard the words. She believed the words. She was the words.

She wore the words like a shimmering gown upon her radiant self, and heard them echo like a song in her beating heart, and carried their kiss in her strong and gentle soul.

Wonder and peace were her companions. Laughter was inevitable. Hope was eternal.

Love was a mysterious and glorious presence.

The words were spoken. The life was shaped. The soul was sacred.

 © Emma McGeorge

The Story of the Poem

I Built a Castle in the Sand

One summer holiday, my siblings and I attempted something most ambitious that I haven’t done since childhood. We built a sandcastle.

But not just any sandcastle. This was to be a castle that would raise the wind-swept sand to new heights, and trump any past monuments of grainy splendour.

My companions and I armed ourselves with 2-litre plastic buckets, a pink mini spade and a matching blue rake, and set off with our pint-sized paraphernalia and a great deal of enthusiasm.

Building a sandcastle turned out to be much harder than I had thought – especially with so many different architects and opinions!

We hauled damp sand from the water’s edge, scoured the dunes for driftwood, and filled our buckets with stones and shells, carefully washed in the sea. Several times, we considered leaving the whole project half-finished, but the thought of a perfect and admirable castle built by our own hands spurred our tired bodies onwards.

We spent several weary yet happy hours shaping the base, digging a moat, erecting towers, and decorating the whole monument with shells, coloured pebbles, and driftwood. Finally, we brushed the ebony grains from our hands and stepped back to view it with satisfaction, and not a little pride.

Our sandcastle was beautiful.

After the compulsory boasting and high-fives, we gathered our well-utilized buckets and tools, and headed home, content in the knowledge that our castle was not only beautiful, but also well out of reach of the ocean waves.

Imagine our horror when we returned a few hours later to find our magnificent sandcastle trampled into the ground.

Who would…? And why?

Was it really necessary to destroy a creation that another had obviously laboured over so tenaciously?

We stared dejectedly at the ugly pile of black sand, broken shells and half-buried pebbles. Though begun as a childish game, the sandcastle had provided much pleasure and an added enjoyment to our holiday. We had created a unique scene on the beach, leaving our fingerprint on its rugged landscape and embracing its wonder and delights.

But in the end, it had all come to nothing…

If given the opportunity to build that sandcastle again, and knowing beforehand the likely outcome of such a venture, what would I have done? What would you have done? Would we go against the tide that would try to discourage us, diminish our efforts, drag us into despair?

Determination to rise above the odds seems an innate human quality.

I would not have hesitated to build another sandcastle every bit as glorious as the first.

Building a castle in the sand was a light-hearted holiday adventure; yet I learned that, even in the face of disappointment, if I was given a smooth stretch of sand, I would optimistically hunker down and build a sandcastle again. And again.

Why then should I not do the same with life?

How many times have I laboured over a “sandcastle”, only to have circumstance or accident or even another person knock it down? How many times have I wanted to give up then and there? To throw my tools into the sea and watch the ocean drown my dreams?

I encourage you, my fellow architect, to face dashed sandcastles with a bucket and a spade.

Life is a beautiful and open sandy beach, just waiting for our ambitious dreams and deep-rooted determination. Just waiting for us to grasp the opportunities that await on its shores. Just waiting for us to dare to pick up our spade, smooth the sandy rubble, and build again.

We live in a sandcastle-crushing world…

…but this does not stop us from building castles.

 © Emma McGeorge