“Not again,” I whined as I readied myself for sleep last night. I checked my cell phone and it was a little past midnight. Then I turned it off because I did not want to get a text message. I thought to myself, “I’ve had this before. I’m not letting it happen again.” I went to bed shortly after I muttered a prayer that to me felt more like pleading.
I wasn’t pleading for God to make this specific problem go away. One, I brought it upon myself. I knew perfectly well the risks I was taking –I’ve been in this situation before. Second, I had a choice. We all have choices. We have choices to repeat past mistakes. While I wouldn’t actually say this is repeating a past mistake, I think this is leaning towards repeating that. I was actually pleading with myself to be more cautious and on guard. “KZ, please be wiser this time. You should know better by now.”
And then I thought about forgiveness –that it should be absolute, complete. People will always disappoint us. But before I rest my case, I have to ask: What is forgiveness? Does forgiveness mean excusing?
The answer I got this morning was this. “Forgiveness does not require an agreed version of the past.” I think this is crucial because arguing over who said what and who replied in which fashion frequently postpones or scuttles entirely the process of forgiveness. I took the example of Joseph the dreamer. He did not say to his brothers, “Now before I forgive you I want everything perfectly clear. Let’s establish the facts about that afternoon on the road to Dothan thirty years ago.” He did not try to rub his brothers’ faces in their wrong actions. He did not insist that everyone agree about the history of the matter before reconciliation was possible. That would have been hopeless perhaps; it certainly was unnecessary. He decided to draw a curtain over the past. Too many times I find myself being ‘factual’. This is what happened. This is what you did. This is what I did.
Let me also just argue that forgiveness does not mean excusing the behavior of another person. In fact, if his or her behavior can be excused, then there is no real need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is necessary when the behavior is inexcusable, when the person involved really should not have acted in such a fashion. I often make the mistake of saying. “It’s okay; I know you didn’t mean to” or “It doesn’t matter; I probably provoked you”. Forgiveness begins where excuses leave off. And let me quote C.S Lewis, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Let’s go back to pleading with myself. I was half awake when I turned on my cell phone to check if I’ve gotten that message. I did. But it wasn’t followed by another one. Which is fine because then I don’t have to plead with myself to stop worrying or stop caring altogether.
Let’s just put it this way. This morning, when I was writing what was in my heart and when I opened the Word of God, I had this peace come over me. It seemed to tell me, “Just forgive. You get more when you forgive.” I try not to establish facts anymore. I try to be vulnerable, but within limits. I try to be as rational as I can be. I try to give everything that I’ve got, and love the way I understand love. The operative word here is “try”. But when it comes to forgiveness, I don’t have to try. I just have to do it.
And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Isn’t that the true message of Christmas? Jesus Christ came to this world to do the one thing we couldn’t do by ourselves: forgiving sins.
I was at Camp Capinpin yesterday. We visited Lt. Col Jun Parcon and the other detainees who staged the stand off more than 2 years now. He was our church deacon, and he still remains a good leader. In fact, all the other detainees with him have accepted Jesus Christ and have found forgiveness in their hearts because he led and guided them. True: the government betrayed them at one point. Haven’t we all been betrayed by this government? But what I learned from being with them the whole day yesterday was that it is possible to forgive and it is possible to live a new life because there is freedom in forgiveness.
So I write today on the last day of 2008, while Rihanna’s Take a bow is playing in the background, and let me just say, I did not intend that. The neighbors love playing their music out loud for the whole world to hear. But I will tell you how apt that song is to my current predicament and this morning, I don’t mind that it’s playing real loud. Aside from the truth of that song, I think, no, I know for sure, that it’s my song for this year.
But enough of that. This is the last day of 2008. I want to be sure I end 2008 forgiving people –myself included. Like I said, there is freedom in forgiveness. And I want that in 2009.
Happy New Year everyone!