I read a blog post about forgiveness last week.
It made me think. And think. And think.
I am no good at forgiveness. Really. I suck at it. I am the type of woman who keeps everything inside. I have the memory of an elephant, and it has the grip of a python. I can never let things go.
So when things in my study group at church turn to the phrase ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’, and we discuss the fact that we are asking God to forgive us in the same way we forgive those around us, I am frightened.
How will He forgive me if I don’t forgive others?
Oh, I’m not talking about the small things, the little trespasses people regularly make when dealing with others. Small insults are easily forgiven – other than my pondering on how to not commit such a crime or how to avoid being called such a name again. But I don’t hold them against people.
It’s the big things.
I throw down my pen, pushing myself away from the table. His words come down like anvils in my ears, anvils that I desperately try to ignore. My mother’s pithy little note floats out of my hand, taunting, “Prends moi pas pour une cruche.”* It is quickly snatched up again and crumpled into a ball as the first blow falls strongly across my head.
I stomp into the kitchen to throw it out, hurling my own heavy words in his direction, and in hers, though she can’t hear me.
He is sick, and in pain, and drugged up on meds to fight it. I know this, but it is not foremost in my mind as I try desperately to build a wall around my heart. I can only think: They’re WRONG.
I slam the cupboard door shut, and that is the last straw. He comes forward, stalking me as I imagine a big cat would before pouncing. I see the threat in his eyes, but I take no note of it – what can he do to me? His finger leads, pointed at my face like the barrel of a gun. His mouth spews anger and spittle. A vein throbs in his neck.
I’m sure my own face was not kind, either. I can imagine the sneer that was in place as I listened to the unfounded accusations, to the unflattering comparisons to the foreign exchange student who was living with us.
I don’t remember what I said that snapped him. I don’t remember the vast majority of what I said in anger to him. But the next thing I knew…
I try to draw breath once before realizing – those are his hands squeezing my airways shut. Those are his fingers wrapped around my neck. That is his strength forcing the blood to pool in my face, making my pulse race against his grip. My vision reddens and tunnels. All I see is his angry face. He towers over me, bending me backward over the kitchen counter.
I refused to try again. I would pass out before I let him see me gasping for breath in his hands. My pride wouldn’t allow it – and I don’t know if it would now.
I was a proud sixteen-year-old when my father’s hero status was forever shattered in my mind and heart. And some days, I have forgiven him. Others, I still have that anger and fear inside of me. So does it really count as forgiveness?
Perhaps it is a work in progress, and the progress is not on a set speed. It moves forward quickly, then slows down, and sometimes it reverses, changing direction abruptly. Sometimes it stalls and stays stuck in the middle of the road. Some days, it’s all I think about. Most days, I no longer give it a passing thought.
But I work at it, and it humbles me to realize that I have such a difficult time forgiving. And I am more motivated than ever, as we discuss such topics as forgiveness and as I read about it on my reader and think about it during my quiet times, to forgive him, truly and completely. To put it away, neatly folded and placed on a shelf that I no longer look at.
Because if I am capable of doing so, how much more is God with my own transgressions?
*A French expression which does not easily directly translate (don’t trust Google on this one! It doesn’t mean “I’m not a pitcher”) – take it as a more vulgar way of saying, “What do you take me for, an idiot?”