Experiment in Forgiveness
“God loves everybody, don’t remind me.”
– The National
“Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
Lent is often seen as a time to pause and reflect on our inner life: our pain, numbness or distraction, and the grudges we hold, and then to try to turn around. Lent is long enough to try a few experiments in forgiveness.
My husband left a bookmark laying on the desk, with this quotation by Richard Meux Benson of the Society of St. John the Evangelist: “In praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of God who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.”
That bookmark-length admonition pains me. In praying for others we learn to truly love them. Replace “others” with “enemies” and I feel even worse. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
I encourage you to think of someone you’d like to make amends with, and take them on this journey to the heart of God. I’ll do it too. I have my share of personal conflicts. I’d like to imagine that my critics keep me humble, but they mostly just make me angry. Carrying them into the very being of eternal Love doesn’t sound like fun. Talking shit about them sounds like fun.
As we pray for our enemies, we find ourselves in our enemies. The positive regard of others that I did not earn and the absence of condemnation are the things that have made me a better person. We forgive as we have been forgiven. Nobody ever became more human because of their enemies hating them and saying bad things about them, but this is still our default method for changing people.
This Lent, let’s experiment in forgiveness. Let us follow our merciful God and pray for our enemies as we journey toward the cross on which Jesus died as our enemy, all the while forgiving us and carrying us into the heart of eternal Love.
Naomi Wildflower is a coffee snob, an urban cyclist, and an Episcopalian. While once a Torontonian, she currently lives in the beautiful neighbourhood of Kensington in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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