Forgiveness

A few days ago, Susan (Creo en Dios!) posted about forgiveness and made a reference to “The Shack.”

I just knew that this post was coming from “The Shack” – from the first sentence…

…God tries to get him to understand reconciliation.  God says, “There has never been a question that what I wanted from the beginning I will get. …Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world. … The whole world, Mack.  All I’m telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally.”

In the referenced interchange between Mack and God there is also a lesson for us about the business of our forgiving others. We are called to forgive, but we are also called to forgive without demanding that the other person acknowledge our forgiveness. Not easy. It doesn’t quite feel completed at this point.

When I finally forgive I really want that other person to acknowledge what [a wonderful thing] I have done. I may not actually desire a full relationship with the other person (another way I fall short of the ultimate example), but, by-golly, I want some credit!

Instead, I find that it must be enough for me to forgive. I believe I have mentioned before a penance I had once that required that when I sang or played in mass that it be offered as a prayer for those I felt were persecuting me (and those folks were very often in the congregation at the time). 7 months I did this. Seven months! Until the day that I listened to one of them (a priest) offer a homily. I listened and was overwhelmed with a sense that he was saying the right words, and utterly clueless about what they might mean. The topic was reconciliation/confession. Instead of being angry with him (my usual response) I had an overwhelming sense of sadness for him and what he was missing. Sorrow. I knew I was done. I knew I had forgiven beyond my human ability.

There is still no reconciliation — and never any acknowledgment that I had anything to forgive. But that is not the issue here. Later in the book, God explains  “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It’s about letting go of another person’s throat.” And, that is often about as far as I can get.

2 Responses to Forgiveness

  1. Susan January 3, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    I struggle sometimes with forgiveness. Somehow it feels like I’m being complicit in wrongdoing if I forgive wihtout some acknowledgement by the other person that they have done something that requires forgiveness. Like I’m letting them get away with something. And so I found the discussion of forgiveness in the book very helpful. (Which is not to say I don’t still have some struggle.)

  2. Liz January 3, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Don’t I know it! It is very difficult to let go and accept that I am not judge and jury. That is one thing that seems to have come to me from my association with our friends the Vincentians: my task is not to judge, but to love. I’m sure that it could have come from other sources, but that was my source.

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