Thinking of you on this snowy Sunday in Connecticut. Another storm for New England, requiring acceptance and adjustment...and snow shovels! I’ve been watching the birds this winter, pecking at the snow-frosted suet. I admire their patient flitting about, in and among the snowflakes. I wonder where they go when it’s dark or when the wind lifts the falling snow to a horizontal line. It seems the birds have made peace with Winter, letting go of an expectation of safety or comfort.
My own relationship with Winter invites a contemplative stance.... today I’m considering forgiveness. When I seek forgiveness, I imagine someone seeing my flaw, my error and telling me it’s OK. Telling me, I am OK. They see and accept my error, and forgive me. And when I’m called to forgive someone, I imagine myself looking deep within myself and finding the compassion that helps me accept their error or unthinking action - even if it hurts me very much. If I want to forgive them, I keep trying to send loving energy their way.....f-o-r-g-i-v-e-n-e-s-s.
Does this make sense to you? Our Christian tradition certainly teaches this sort of dynamic. We ask God to “forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s as if forgiveness is a gift you bestow or receive. But what if that energy-exchange image is an incomplete way of looking at our capacity to forgive?
The Aramaic word (Jesus’ language) for forgive is “shbag.” It means: to cancel, to let loose or to untie. This ancient language offers a glimpse into healing found through a deeper experience of forgiving. When I forgive someone, I am invited to let loose of the toxic memory that this hurt has created. When I bring forgiveness into my heart and mind as I consider a long-ago or recent pain, I am encouraged to untie the hold this pain has on me. Instead of force-fitting an ethic of forgiveness into a hurting wound, imagine a wash of Love flowing over the wound, over the memory, and encouraging the strands of pain and bitterness to untie...release...let go.
This understanding of forgiveness allows healing to cross time and space and does not require the participation of an unwilling, or even deceased, person. It does require, however, courage and trust. We step into a conscious relationship with our own vulnerability. Hopefully, we do so with confidence of a loving God in our Present Moment. To forgive is to surrender our pain to Love.
We, like the birds of winter, are invited to trust that our needs will be met. As we flit through our lives, may Love live in our hearts and lift our wings toward Hope.
Peace to you this month of March,