My devotional reflection was on forgiveness this morning. I am reading Radical Grace, a collection of daily meditations by Franciscan contemplative guru Father Richard Rohr. I appreciate his take on so many things and this particular book has been an often used part of my devotional collection. The meditations are divided by church season and for the week after Easter, Rohr writes prayers to be recited by the reader. One such prayer is on forgiveness and the opening line resonates deeply with me:
Lamb of God we ask that we might be defense free people, that we might be able to live a truly disarmed life, that we might be able to be secure enough in your love, Jesus, to be insecure in this world, to let go, Lord.
The overarching theme of this prayer is about learning to forgive ourselves, but I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go and forgiving others recently. And I’m beginning to realize that forgiveness is all about vulnerability.
I’m not one who tends to hold a grudge. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that once something has happened and my feelings are expressed, I move on fairly easily. Relationships have been broken and significantly changed when wrongdoing occurs, but I am not one to carry around feelings of resentment. Doing so causes us to turn in on ourselves. Parts of us begin to atrophy and we slowly lose the capacity to give and receive love. We become so focused on the experience of betrayal, suffering, or any other thing that causes us pain that we can no longer live a full life.
There is one area of my life that I haven’t let go of; one person and situation that I have struggled to forgive. And as I write these words, I realize that by not doing so, I have put myself in situations that seek to correct a situation with another person who was not a part of the original issue.
My stepfather left me. He was my dad. He raised me. He taught me how to cook, how to clean, how to be curious about the world around me. He was a stay at home dad and was incredibly active in my schooling and extra-curricular activities. He is my brother’s biological father but I never felt like a step child to him. Until the day that I realized that’s exactly what I was.
When my parents divorced (my mother and my step-father) I was not included in any of the visitation arrangements. I went from living with a man who was my dad to not seeing him and watching as my brother would go to his house on the weekends. I struggled for years (and still do) with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. While I intellectually understand that I did nothing wrong to cause him to leave, I can’t wrap my heart around how one goes from living with you and loving you as their own to never being present.
I have lived with this pain and anger since I was 14. I have never shared it with my step-father. I am seeing him for the first time in 5 years today. He’s in the hospital recovering from surgery because he was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. There are so many emotions and thoughts whirling within me and I was tempted to back out of my visit to see him. But I can’t do it. I will never forgive myself if I don’t express my feelings. I will never forgive myself if his life comes to an end and I don’t tell him how much I love him and miss him.
Forgiveness…it’s not for the faint of heart.