If it were that simple, I wouldn’t still be standing here. I wouldn’t be looking up at the skies full of cherry, violet, and gold, wondering if I’m doing okay. Am I doing it right, God? Am I really trying? Am I going the right way? Three steps forward, two steps back. It seems like that’s how it goes. I have my good days, my bad days. My memories that like to surface dance in my vision. Fourth grade, arguing with a teacher because I didn’t like the format we had to use for our state testing essays. 6th grade, out for laser tag for my birthday. 7th grade, taking a bow on the stage after my final performance. That summer, getting sick. My main memory was lying in my bed, weak and ill. Blood tests. Doctor’s appointments. Finally, finally, 8th grade, taking the elevator in the Mayo Clinic with two women in burqa’s. One, through the slit for her eyes, met my stare and smiled at me. I smiled back. The woman in the wheelchair glared. Months later, still so many questions. People coming and going, thoughts lingering for a while.
Life is strange. Bad stuff happens. People die. We seem like we’re hopeless. We fall in love so easily and make too many mistakes. I don’t know how to explain it. One of my favorite Catholic teen communities explains it well–something along the lines of “heaven is the party, Earth is sort of the RSVP.”
I live and sometimes stop and ask myself if I’m doing a good enough job living. And part of living is forgiving.
Now, as I sit here and type this, I wonder if I’ve forgiven my enemies. What does it mean to forgive? Does it mean that I have to be friends with them? Does it mean that I have to like them?
Dictionary.com defines “to forgive” as: “to cease to feel resentment against.” For that, I keep drawing upon myself. What is resentment? Resentment, that harsh feeling you get in your heart and the hardness behind your teeth, branching up to your ears? Now, I carefully tread into the unstable parts of my soul. The parts that have been burned and condemned. I walk across the charred floor and to the other end of the hallway, where I’ve locked away names and places, people and things. I look at them. I touch them. I flinch. They still hurt, I still feel the heat of their fire. I still feel the paths that went up through the edges of my soul and burned even parts of my body. My sight. My heart. My voice. The parts that will never be the same. But still, through all of that dull ache, I listen carefully to the song playing in my head. Is it angry? No, deeper. Do I wish harm on that person, name, place, thing? Would I ever try to go out of my way to hurt them? If I saw them dying, would I bandage them? If they came to my doorstep in the middle of the night, would I let them in?
No. No. Yes. Yes. Those are my answers to the questions. And when I realize that yes, I have forgiven them–that I feel no resentment–I feel good. Yes, I’m doing what Christ did for me. Yes, I’m doing the right thing.
But through all of that, I have not forgotten the things that have been said and done. I forgive, yes. But I never forget. And that helps me move on, helps me really live. I learn from my mistakes, atone for my sins, and I go on. Roll on, Mississipi. March on, soldier. Sing on, little bird.
And so I look up at the sky, think of the lessons learned, and I smile. Because there’s more turmoil in store, but there are more smiles than there are tears. I have a life to live. And that is more than enough.
What do you do to forgive? Do you forget? What is your definition of living? What keeps you going? Leave some responses in the comments below or link me back in a response post.