This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
Someone asked me this week; “What if they never ask for forgiveness? What if it’s beyond them? What if they don’t believe they need forgiveness? How can I move on? How do I get rid of this burden if they never take it from me?” I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. That place where forgiveness seems to the be the only balm which would heal our wounds. Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We often believe it’s a one time,
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We often believe it’s a one time, magical incantation of words which, uttered from the offending party, will make us feel better, forget the dastardly deed done to us, and move on with life. However, forgiveness, real forgiveness, is a journey and though our desire may be for the offending other to admit their role, their sin, their purposeful hurting of us, there is never a guarantee it will happen.
We must decide if we are going to wait, stuck on the side of the path, waiting for the apology that may never come. We can strand ourselves or decide to walk the path with the burden of unforgiveness. There will come a time, several of them, when we will either choose to continue carrying the heavy load or drop it and realize forgiveness never starts with the other. It always comes from inside where love, grace, and kindness reside.
Someone asked me last week; “How long does it take to heal a broken heart? How long before you’ve moved past the pain, betrayal and loss? How long before it doesn’t hurt any more?” I wearily smiled and replied; “I’ll let you know, as soon as it happens.”
The act of forgiving someone is more than saying the words; “I forgive you.” It is a head and heart change, a spirit and emotional shift that takes time. Forgiveness is a process, a journey, which begins with some of the most difficult steps we can ever make. When someone has consciously, purposefully wounded us, torn apart a relationship, chosen to grievously harm us, there is no; “quick fix” prayer, magical spell or shortcut to a place of healing. To forgive is to make the choice to move on, not hold on to the bitterness and heartache, to allow the offending party and yourself to be free, and this choice is repeated many times.
The path of forgiveness is at first a downward spiral. We journey deep into ourselves and come face to face with the pain caused by the other. We admit and accept the hurt which has been done to us. We then bring the injury into the light by talking about it with someone we trust, someone who can help us navigate the path from brokenness to wholeness. Depending on the depth of the wound, healing, forgiveness, could take years. Remember it is a choice to let go of the blame, the pain and the burden of carrying around an act of selfishness, carelessness and callousness done to us by another. The choice is to hold on to the hurt or embrace freedom of mind, body and spirit. The decision might be made countless times until the impact of the betrayal is finally, permanently, all gone and we find the long, hard path to restoration complete and worth it.