The Laminated book
It is like so many things, hardly noticed and seldom acknowledged as different, the issues that come and go. The lessons of pain and forgiveness that are confronted as with a child, a friend and a toy or candy. The lessons drawn about getting caught, asking for and giving forgiveness for slights and pains, deserved or not. The schooling of behaviors that restore a friendship and you move forward. The teachers and parents and friends that involve themselves, and those that don’t, and when. And then it happens differently; the false accusation and the fake apology. Or the forced through the clenched teeth to please the parent, but not the soul. We have all done them, some more often and some don’t learn to do otherwise, and some learn quickly that it is of no value to hold on any more.
We have all heard about the maxims of old about forgiveness and the unburdened soul. Or the lack of forgiveness and the bondage that stays with you. The idea that “the only one in pain is the one that fails to forgive.” The tales and anecdotes and parables all say the same thing, but seldom ease the pain or the wound of the unforgiving. The sticky rag on the end of the string soon gathers other items that stick and come along with you on the journey. If you haven’t done it, you have seen it in the anger and weariness and lack of companions in others. The fatigue and strain and white knuckles, the tight voice and the control. The demands show up and it has the same color and smell in them all... Justice.
How does it get there? Lots of ways, like lots of personalities and troubles and people that get in the way. So, let me diagram it this way; Forgiveness is like a laminated binder. There is a heft and a feel that sometimes belies the age of the one to which it belongs. You have seen them, young-in-age but old in experience. They have had a lifetime of turmoil before they were 15, and it shows. Sometimes it is in the book that they carry, if they will show you. Sometimes in the tenderness of their demeanor if they have been taught well. And perhaps, only in the harshness, if they have only been able to survive the experience. It can start with an encounter that was a betrayal of justice when your sibling gets away with something and you were the one forced to apologize, again. You lose a belief that justice is balanced. And then it goes downhill from there. You start to look for these injustices and ignore your own (or justify them) that may precede the acts of injustice done to you… complicating the issue.
Little beginnings bring large ends, or so it is told. So we start with Tab One, the forgiveness of the “others”, the ones that hurt us and we believe that we will be righted in our desired way. So this is forgiveness of others. The next Tab is for the forgiveness of self. This gets a bit complicated but boils down to this: you did it, so accept that it was your fault and you failed and you are sorry. Sometimes it is as simple as an acknowledgement that will mend the rift, and sometimes the hearse tells you that you cannot make this better. For some it comes as “survivor guilt” which is real and as powerful as a belief internalized, but it is still here at this level, self-forgiveness. The third Tab is the tricky part as it is about that which you have no control at all. It can be called the “Justice System”, but includes a boss, parent, spouse, police, partners in business or in the end, the God that let it happen.
This is a messy page of pain that seldom gets opened for guests. This book we all carry is called the book of forgiveness. It has lots of pages of our forgiving those we meet, both strangers and friends. We will leave that page open on the coffee table for others to see while we get the appetizers and drinks. Proud of the times and dates and circumstances that can be recited by heart, we are quick to tell of how the healing took place and freedom achieved when we forgave those that were, at times, undeserving of it. The second part took some humility to show, since it is when we were needing it to be given to us. Candor and grace and honest stories of pain and turmoil at our hand is less forthcoming and so much needed to get the depth of grace we were so shortly ago speaking of giving. And then there is this. The ability to forgive the God that let it take place. Those are pages seldom brought out, and only to the very dear friends. The pages are loosened with the tears of remembrance and anger at the betrayal and the loss. Too soon. Too late. The wrong answer or diagnosis. The good one was taken and the evil one remained. It should have, or it shouldn’t have. And all of them fit nicely on the pages of the tab called Justice, in this book of forgiveness.
There is a curious part of this that is known by most, and understood when it comes to you, that the only one that is bothered by your lack of forgiveness is you. When you were wronged so many years ago, and you finally tell your sibling or friend about your forgiving them they will likely look at you in disbelief and say that they had no idea or that they have forgotten about that a long time ago. It is then that you realize that you alone were burdened by this. This is important because it holds for all three of the tabs in the book. If you hold the lack of forgiveness, it burns only your hands. I will wait… Read that again... To forgive is to release, yourself. To forgive yourself is not to forget or absolve and here is where the next piece comes in. The insufficient is made complete, but not by you. You do your part, by asking or giving the forgiveness. The hole is still there and the scar still stings and shows for a while. But the healing is done with the gift of another. To withhold the forgiveness is to only burden yourself and is true for the grace given to others that have hurt you, or that you have hurt, and to the one that let it take place at all. We have all a story to tell, of a wound or a loss. The blow to our plans and dreams. The complete lack of an ability to move and even to breathe when we got the news. And yet the news came and the breath left. And we were alone in the midst of the storm that raged. Alone.
It matters little at the age of this trauma, it is always the same and it is the same for the remedy. It requires that the friend comes along. Sometimes it is a call and a soft and comforting voice. At times it is with the age and feebleness of the incapable that they finally allow for the façade to drop. For some it is the veneer that protects the embarrassment that they resist letting go of the protection. That is sad, for the lost years in between, but it is who they are and what they reap. For others, it is the brutal understanding that what might have been will not, and that that truth is a benumbing knowledge. Lots of people have tales of woe and sorrow. They are like the sand on the beach, if you will listen. But what is it that comes as help? Forgiveness is a word, and there are lots of words. What is needed is this, a safe place to put it down. This is the trouble with forgiving the God that let it happen, for at one time you thought He was safe. But then you found out you were wrong.
The next word is the heart of the issue, Betrayal. You can call it injustice if you wish, but it is the reason you will not let go. It is the belief that you are still in control of the outcome of Justice, and it is powerful. It is also wrong, which you are aware of, in your knower, and yet you persist. Understandable. Human. Common. This is where the friend is of help. It is about the safe place to allow for the tears and the sobbing and the hanky and the clean shirt later. And the release. The release of the load is inexplicable, really. The hormones that wash through are called oxytocin and they have a job that is found only in times of stress. Giving birth and car wrecks and gunshots and the like, it is why the hug of a friend is like no other, after the off-loading of the burden. The tears and the look of a friend as they meet your eyes. The gift of forgiveness is about you and not the other. The gift of receiving the understanding that you are only part and the remainder was filled by another. The justice was paid in full, just in a way you didn’t want and weren’t expecting. This knowledge is hard, and the result is grand, but deep. The issue of a Laminated Grace is something that we speak little of. We speak of the first two layers, but the issue of giving God the freedom to do as He sees fit messes with our need for closure and justice and timing. Mostly, it just shows how we are wanting to still be in control. God is jealous and isn’t satisfied with second place. In many ways, He doesn’t play fair. He seems to have a different rule book and a different stop watch and more Time-outs than we get. The problem is we are wired for Fair, and we don’t get to set the schedule.
Well, now what.
Give yourself a break. You have time. You have a friend. You can also be one. Carry an extra hanky, just in case. You might need it, and to be the friend, that you need for yourself. Your limp is noticed, so tell your story. Use the hanky. It is ok.
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