Forgiveness is Advent's door to Christmas peace
April 28, 2013
507 words, unpublished
For "Keeping a Holy Advent," Nashotah House Theological Seminary, 2013
The news was good news, but I was still angry. It was news I'd waited a long time to hear, but now clutching success firmly in hand, it seemed to me the asking price had been too high. Moreover, others had to help me foot the bill because I couldn't pay the full freight.
The anger tied my chest in knots and for a full 48 hours it kept me from accepting the good news I'd received. Unlike Simeon, I was not yet ready to depart in peace.
But I wanted peace -- oh, more than anything I wanted to be at peace. I wanted to let go of the anger, but I didn't know how.
Then, someone suggested I try forgiveness.
Now, we are used to asking for forgiveness -- however rote it may sometimes be. Confessions and acts of contrition are part and parcel of our common worship. But we rarely ritualize our acts of forgiveness. It's a false humility that tells us that it could never be our place to forgive or absolve. But that's exactly the place I needed to get to.
So I closed the door to my office and sat down at my desk. I made a mental list of all the people I needed to forgive going back many years and continuing up to the present day.
There were a lot of priests and bishops on the list, an ex-wife and a girlfriend, some former colleagues and vestry members. I went step-by-step, brought them each to mind, and said, "I forgive, N. for [whatever wrong or perceived wrong]."
It was a long list.
But as I revisited each time and place, other names and faces came to mind. These were the people who had blessed and encouraged me. These were the people I needed to thank. So I went through again and made a list of people I needed to thank.
There were a lot of priests and bishops on this list too; the same ex-wife and a girlfriend, some former colleagues and vestry members, and, of course, many, many dear friends.
I noticed that the second list was much longer than the first.
Forty-five minutes later, with tears in my eyes, I noticed the tightness in my chest dissipating rapidly as two decades worth of pain and anger was flushed from my heart.
I had not been able to dislodge the anger on my own. I had not been able to will or to pray it away. Relief came only after I invited the Holy Spirit to perform the operation along with me; me naming and forgiving, she blessing and giving thanks.
And when she departed, she left peace in her place and me ready to go once again (though really for the first time) to Bethlehem -- to accept the good news and to rejoice at this thing which has come to pass.