Last night I saw a friend again that I have not seen for awhile. I was nervous about seeing him because of how we last left each other. What I left knowing is that we both desired our friendship more than we desired to look backward and be right. We forgave.
This past year has been full of more opportunities to ask, and offer forgiveness than I care to admit. I know there have been moments when the conclusion of a relationship seemed inevitable. That is exactly how relationships end, by drawing conclusions. Relationships end when we arrive at final judgment without the expectations anything can ever change.
Forgiveness, however, is the refusal to let another person’s failures define our relationship.
This doesn’t mean living without boundaries. In fact setting boundaries are a form of forgiveness. Boundaries promise that there may be a way for us to learn how to be together even if there are parts of our lives we shouldn’t share. Setting boundaries counts as trying. Forgiveness is a also a kind of confrontation. It is naming the fact that something needs to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is not a one time decision; it is work. It may mean doing things that nurture a desire for the to be together again. Perhaps we can recall good times, return to shared dreams, or just sit and let ourselves live for a while in the pain of missing someone or whatever I can do to broaden my imagination. Forgiveness is risky because it means opening ourselves up to desire that may never be reciprocated. But without forgiveness it is impossible to get that desire back. I went to confession once (this always makes me nervous) and I told the priest plainly that I lived in a great deal of anguish because of one particular friendship. I thought it was going away. What he asked me to do is to sit and remember all of the relationships I have ever had that worked out, that succeeded anyway. I did. It changed my imagination
For Christians this is a time of year when we reflect on the incarnation. The incarnation is the coming of God in Jesus to the world, knowing that we would eventually kill him. The resurrection is God’s refusal to let that define our relationship. Rather than being a crass sacrifice to an angry volcano God, it is simply God’s refusal to not let human violence define our relationship.
If there is one thing that every human on earth needs from each other is some kind of forgiveness. And this is possible. If there is one thing that can really put legs, feet, and even wings on hope is to live in a place where my failures are not the end of me. It is my belief in that the best of you is yet to come. I believe you are worth that risk.
Last night my friend jumped back in to the risky business of being my friend. For that I will be eternally grateful.