Saturday, July 27, 2013

Forgiveness (borrowing from old writing)

My sister is spending the night with me tonight, and we have spent the evening talking...such that I am about to fall asleep, without writing.

But I am ALMOST to the end of July.  So I'm going to borrow from some older writing (a few months ago) that I have not yet shared here.

My thoughts turned again to forgiveness, today, and what it means, so I figured this piece of writing was worth me re-reading, and perhaps worth sharing. 

What I've realized lately is that there is no magic forgiveness button.  No magic wand.  There is no road to Forgivenessland that I can see.  There isn't even a magic time that you can potentially wait around for in hopes of getting hit with the forgiveness stick.  From this, I had Realization Number 1: there is no secret that I am missing.  There is no secret to forgiveness that I am not smart enough to recognize.  There is no method of obtaining it that I don't have access to; it's not because I question the existence of god; it's not because I'm not "big enough" or "good enough" or "strong enough."  It is not my brokenness that prevents me from forgiving.

From here, I landed on Realization Number 2: I can make my own definition, and I can make it work for me.  As I sat, overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, I remembered the last lines of the poem "The Thing Is" by Ellen Bass: think "how can a body withstand this?"  Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes.  I will take you.  I will love you again.

I sat for a few moments, trying to figure out why this poem came to me now.  I realized that if I had to name one thing that has helped me the most over the past three years, it would be starting and maintaining a daily, active practice of conscious and radical gratitude.  Starting out, it was nearly impossible.  Now, I keep a running list in my mind throughout the day.

It was then that I came to Realization Number 3: Gratitude is my practice of forgiveness.  In a world that can leave me feeling broken, being able to wake up and face the world again; to engage in this world and put myself out in it as a person, vulnerable and trusting; to fight to find at least one beautiful thing every single day: this is an act of active forgiveness.  It's my way of saying to a world where so many people hurt and continue to be hurt every day, "I am willing to take you on and see what is good in you."  That is forgiveness.  In a world where I know I could be hurt again, I am willing to say, "I see you, World, for the wonderful and terrible things you contain, and I am going to try to love you again."  That is hard, and it is powerful, and perhaps, it is an act of radical forgiveness.  Most importantly for me, this process is already in progress.  It's something I have known I needed and have moved towards as an act of healing. 

For me, perhaps forgiveness is not so much about an act of letting go as it is about reclaiming the small moments and allowing them to sift into my soul.  It's not so much about getting the people who hurt me out of my body as it is about letting the world in.  What happens to us is always part of our history, and we inhabit our history with our bodies, but the space in my soul is limitless.  The more I open my heart to the world and let her in, in spite of her own brokenness, the smaller the hurt becomes by comparison.  Forgiveness, for me, is a process of opening, rather than releasing. 

Finally, I settled on Realization Number 4: There is not an ultimate point of forgiveness.  There is not going to be a time when I can say "all is forgiven."  Forgiveness, for me, is a process that I can choose to actively engage or passively acknowledge.  The act of greeting the day, setting foot in this world, savoring the first sip of coffee or the smell of the earth at dusk- these are my daily reminders that I have not been broken.  These are the processes by which I choose to greet the world with new eyes, saying, "yes.  I am still here.  I forgive you enough to see this beautiful thing in you.  I will love you again."

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