Sometimes I struggle with forgiveness.
I don’t mean struggle in the sense that I feel I’m owed something, that I want to hold a grievance over someone’s head. I struggle with the what of forgiveness. I struggle with the how. What is forgiveness? Is it forgetting? Reconciliation? Letting go?
Recently I’ve been reading a lot by the philosopher John Caputo. I love his “Poetics of the Kingdom”, and resonate with his “weak theology”. This theology of weakness is in contrast to the strong forces of the world that are driven by power and control.
Weak theology is the evocative call of the impossibly good, impossibly beautiful things –
the power of powerlessness, the gift of grace, of love, of mercy.
It’s the quiet, whispered call into the good.
It’s the same loving, persistent good, good, very good that was proclaimed when the beautiful was taken and formed from the deep.
It pulls us, calls us, asks us to be in this world – but not of it.
I think this is my struggle with forgiveness.
The strong forces of the world would have me think that forgiveness is something that belongs to the order of the world and the strong forces within me would like to buy into it. In the world’s ways, everything is conditional upon being earned or owed and forgiveness in practice very often equates with reconciliation.
This is good and this makes sense. It’s ideal in a world where everything is earned or owed and is certainly better than retaliation or vengeance.
But we live in a paradoxical reality. The strong forces of earning and owing can wind themselves like tares on the wheat of the weak forces – of those things that are unconditional gifts, those things that can’t be earned.
And I’m sure that forgiveness is an unconditional gift.
It’s an impossibly good and beautiful event that does not belong to the natural order of this world.
I’m told that forgiveness is of God’s kingdom, like grace is of His kingdom.
I’ve prayed, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
And I know that you can’t both forgive and expect to reconcile debts.
Maybe the impossibility of this unconditional gift is my struggle with forgiveness.
How do I, with one hand, reach for the eternal call of good, good, very good while holding such brokenness in the other?
How do I retain the past – an unreconciled past – affirm it, and let it go?
Can I separate my desire for the good economy of reconciliation from the gift of forgiveness? This is what I ultimately want to do. Forgive debts.
Not repress or deny the hurt of the past but retain it as if it were crossed out, erased – there, but not anymore.
I want to live into the call of the impossibly good things; lepers that are healed, blind that see –
debts that are forgiven, as I have forgiven my debtors.
I want to let the impossible beauty of the unconditional gifts breathe meaning into the hurt,
healing into the brokenness
and life into where I am and where I am called to be.
I want to give away the debts owed to me, even as the debts I owe are released – and live into the eternal proclamation of good, good, very good that takes and forms the beautiful from the deep.
God help me do the impossible.