Tomorrow will be filled with talk of rising, resurrection, new life, rebirth, as it should be (rather that than fluffy bunnies). But for me, this time it’s going to be hard. This time round, I’m struggling with the forgiveness, the rejuvenation, the fresh hope – and it’s not a place that’s remotely comfortable for me to be.
I feel guilty at my difficulty. I feel the weight of the responsibility that lies within Jesus’s admonition that ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 18:18). If I am to try to be as Christ-like as I can, and to be able to pray in real conversation with my Lord, I must believe that I ‘have forgiven [my] debtors’ (Matthew 6:12).
What a challenge Jesus left us with!
As a Lenten penance I have been literally wearing my betrayals: those done by me, and those done unto me, in the form of jewellery. Tonight I cut away those sins, let go of them, with forgiveness – and it’s strange, because, unexpectedly, that feels ok. I am happy to be relieved of carrying a minor infidelity against me: it is forgiven, I let it go, with love and with joy at the lessons learned and the relationship rescued. I am able, though not entirely willing, to forgive the damage wrought on me and my family by another who seems hellbent on manipulation and deceit. I can even just about reconcile myself with the idea of letting go of my own sins, my failures to and of myself, and to look forward to beginning again without those things.
However, I have recently bumped up against something I find it very hard to forgive: the betrayal of my values by people who ought to know better. This stuff really, really hurts. The wounds are too fresh, and too sore, to bandage over – for fear of infection, if nothing else. They are too ugly and disfiguring to avoid looking upon. They are too damaging to ignore. All of those things suggest to me that here, I am in for a real rough ride with God, as I battle through this mud to see the path ahead of me. All of those things suggest to me that here, I can only be released by finding gracious, difficult forgiveness.
I am angry. I am sad. I am deeply disillusioned. I feel foolish for my naiveté. Yet I also deeply desire to hold on to that foolishness, to continue to be naive, because as soon as I let go of it, as soon as I give up on hope, I become as one of those I am so angry with. That’s all they’ve done, I believe: allowed themselves to be run by fear – and when I look at it like that, perhaps it seems more manageable in terms of forgiveness. What I worry, though, is that I must not let my anger go unnoticed. If I am silent when I see this betrayal, then I am complicit in it. I feel I must protest.
Perhaps, therefore, I need to take the hard path. I need to say ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’, even as they destroy me. I need to face the real, gracious forgiveness that comes to me from God, and to try to emulate it: not to hope that it will be easy, but to accept that it will be hard; not to feel comfortable releasing my enemy from my wrath, but to feel uncomfortable enough to show them it. Someone once taught me that an important part of forgiveness is a calling to account – that something cannot be forgiven until it is acknowledged to be a wrong. It is important to be angry with my neighbour when she has done wrong – it is an important part of loving her, because my anger allows me to share with her my personal truths, and to ask her to share hers with me. This is what genuine relationship must be about, as far as I can see. I love my God, I love my neighbour, and I have to learn to love myself too!
What a challenge Jesus gave us!