"Let me tell you again why I'm so mad, why I am justified in my anger," I said, straightening my back in that pose that I've perfected over the years of righteous indignation. Then I show Her my scar, the place where my heart fell out of my soul from someone's actions. The space between how I would have done something and how the other person DID do something, and that something almost always leads to hurt, disappointment, anger, even rage if all the pieces fit just right. So I proceed, again, to recount the event, even events, that led to this place. When I pause, She nods, even adds in a, "Yes, that was hurtful." And I continue, until I finish.
And God sits, as She does, silently for a while, letting the steam vaporize off my burning soul. And She says one word.
Not the one that can be oh-so-useful as almost any part of speech. Not that one. Not the one that may have meant, "Wow, doesn't this suck." Nope. She says THE F-word. The one we wish Jesus wouldn't have uttered at all: Forgiveness. The F-word, that which God reminds us is not simply a lofty ideal of Christendom, but a hard reality of love. Which will make the best of us say, "Fuck."
"Forgive, my ass," I say, adjusting my beautiful new silk shirt I bought in a perfect pink shade on sale that falls just so the scars aren't visible to anyone else.
But they are visible to Her. Our scars, the places where we've been cut and left to bleed by other children of God. We all have them. And we've all inflicted them. When we compare scars, we often find that they are very, very similar. Trust betrayed, abandonment, disappointment, loss, exclusion, violence to our body, mind, and soul. Sins, we call them, and sins leave a mark.
God, in Her infinite wisdom, let us in on the healing process of those soul marks. Forgiveness and reconciliation. We like forgiveness as a concept, like fusion Asian-Canadian cuisine or those three-inch red strappy heels or giving up chocolate for Lent. In theory, in our intellectualizing, forgiveness sounds so lovely and warm.
"I'm sorry I hurt you. Forgive me?"
And the strings swell as the movie ends and all is right with the world.
But here in the real world, where to relate is to react, we all muff up the relating part regularly and the reaction to said muff-up is usually not so pretty. We might offer some platitude for apology without digging into the details, and we may forget to ask for forgiveness all together because we're just not sure what the other person will do in his or her pain. Animals in pain lash out, even at those hands trying to help. We humans do, too.
Forgiveness isn't about the right words or the perfect apology (although, let me insert that those things go a LONG way to help). It is about taking off the glasses of hurt and anger and disappointment and all the other scars that tint our viewpoint, our entire relationship with the one who has cut us, and our relationship with ourselves and God.
You know the glasses, the lenses that allow us to see every movement, every word from the other as justifying our anger and continuing permission to nurture our wound. The lenses that often make our scar seem much worse than it is, actually, because we want the other to see the betrayal and brokenness live and in living color. The lenses that cast a shadow over reconciliation, even block it completely. The lenses that stop us from seeing how we may have a role in this mess, too. Maybe. Because most sin is complicit. It takes more than one human to, shall I say, fuck things up.
After some time, after I sit in silence, God takes my hands and speaks. "Girlfriend, those glasses are just ugly. They worked for Buddy Holly, but not for you. Take them off."
"No," I say. "I've worn these glasses for a while. Their weight feels familiar."
Then God holds up the mirror, and I can see what God sees. They are not-so-cute. Angelina Jolie couldn't make these look good. So I take them off.
I do. And for a while, my vision is a bit fuzzy. Reconciliation is a new focus, and it doesn't happen in an instant.
"Can I still hold them, just for a while?" I ask.
"If you want," She says, "But they will get heavier and you might miss holding something fabulous. But it's your choice."
And I decide to hand them to Her. She'll know what to do with them.