forgiving: Red Letter Challenge

Love is the most powerful force known to humanity. Love inspires us to be our best selves. Love protects. Love heals. Love propels us into the unknown with shaky knees and trembling hearts. Love creates new realities. Love shapes futures.

And love can hurt.

Nothing profound here. Nothing anyone who has been around the Sun a couple of times has not already discovered. To love means to risk being known and being known means we can be hurt. Brené Brown has a whole body of research exploring this truth and its implications for relationships. Lots of good stuff if you are looking to dive into vulnerability (we all should).

While it is addressed in some ways in Brown’s work, the trouble I have found is not “daring greatly” or “rising strong,” but rather forgiving after the inevitable hurt that comes with loving.

Sometimes I am the one slow to seek forgiveness.

Sometimes I am the one who needs to forgive but does not.

Sometimes I find the one I need to forgive is myself. And perhaps this is where all forgiving starts; to forgive anyone else must we first know our own forgiving? Must we know our need to be forgiven?

The longer I am on this planet, the more I understand the greatest act of love is forgiving. It is true we will hurt and be hurt. Love then is to value the other so much that any rupture in the relationship cannot persist and must be remedied.

On this Lenten journey, I do not miss that this is exactly what God does for us in Jesus. It is what we are invited to do.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

I get it. I really do. But forgiving is so hard to live. And I seldom do. How I must hurt God (and others) by my actions and inaction. Amplify this hurt by all those who have or will ever live. Still, God seems to have decided vulnerability, the certainty of being rejected and refused and reduced, is what it takes to love and be loved.

Maybe this Lent, as I draw nearer to the God who suffers, I will have a greater experience of forgiving. If there is any hope at all, it must be in this, right? God has forgiven me and us. God chooses love and that means forgiving.

Maybe as I seek and find forgiving, forgiving will flow more naturally from and through me. Maybe I too will remember relationships are worth the high price of being hurt and the difficult task of forgiving myself and others. Maybe the whole point of Lent really is to practice the life of Christ in all its messy, painful, wonderful, relationship-restoring ways. Even if it is not, I am unsure there is a practice I need more than the act of forgiving. I pray we can practice it together.

Life is better together,

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