Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
I recently spend a few weeks in Asia with my wife looking after an orphanage for children with HIV. We were accompanied by one other person, a close friend that we have known for many years. Our days were quite long. Starting at around 5am and often not finishing till 10pm or later. As time went on we all became increasingly tired.
At about the 10th day the tiredness had developed into irritations at things we all normally would overlook. Finally the irritation expressed itself in words and tone – specifically my words and my tone. Neither of which were helpful to anyone. Immediately as the words escaped my mouth I could see that I had inflicted pain on my dear friend.
My wife was quick to let me know that I was out of line. I said to her that I would apologise to try to rectify things.
As we were walking along together with the kids I went up to my friend and said these words, “ I am sorry. But, you have been doing this (I named my irritation) the whole time”.
As an apology it fell far short of providing healing words. On reflection and judging by the further tears invoked by my apology I could see that they had done more damage than good.
After giving us a bit more space I attempted again to talk to my friend this time with some more carefully chosen words. This time they were more helpful in healing the damage that I had inflicted earlier. What was even better was that we created a new level of openness in our relationship.
Forgiveness is a part of daily life. Every day we have to make choices about what we do with the inconsistencies, in considerations, failures and shortcomings of those around us. We also need to work out what we do with those things we find within ourselves.
One thing that is evident in most people is there is a level of restlessness in our souls. This expresses itself in the unsettledness that many people have in their circumstances but I believe is pointing to a deeper yearning that we all have.
Hugh Prather says that the root meaning of the verb, “to forgive” is to “let go”. He says that when we consider forgiveness in this way it becomes a “restful activity”. I think that this is the balm that we are looking to heal the wounds that life inflicts upon all of us.
Parker Palmer in a recent article in On Being reiterates the actions that come from not being able to work out our pain. He writes, “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what to do with our suffering”. The only way that we know how to deal with our own unforgiveness is to pass our own suffering onto others.
Ellen Bass expresses the healing path beautifully in her poem, Mules of Love,
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
To conclude I would like to offer my own reflection on my actions on that day when I allowed my irritation to surface. I have immersed myself in the Psalms over the past year and sought to make them my prayers. The day after my outburst I came to Psalm 116 and this was the prayer that emerged from my reading of that Psalm.
Forgiveness is my constant request Lord,
In a brief moment I chose death words,
That sought to see the worst,
In an instant anger took over,
Leaving deep hurt in its wake.
In the midst of this I cried for forgiveness,
I look to God for healing,
Seeking kindness to replace the anger,
Turning sadness into tears of laughter,
Lies are the hurtful twisting of truth,
That are spat out by venom’s tongue,
Seeking to separate my Spirit from God’s,
Looking for an opportunity for Death’s victory.
Today I will look for life’s words,
Seeking to restore the hope that begun,
Not allowing death to wreak destruction,
Looking to belong again after destroyed trust,
I will seek the goodness that belongs to me,
The rest that comes from loving deeply,
Giving daily thanksgiving to God,
For his abundant life giving words,
That are my hope for restoration.
I found in the last stanza the rest that comes from forgiveness that Prather talks about. The wounds inflicted required me to bring a different voice to our conversation that sought to discover the beauty in my dear friend. The conversation that ensued was one that brought a new level of honesty and a renewed capacity to care for each other.