Written by Caron Loveless
In the news today, a man in our area, an expert swimmer, was out in a lake and called for help. The jet skis and boat that tried to rescue him couldn’t reach him in time. They are still looking for his body. His wife was there when it happened. How does she begin to process this loss and forgive it?
Some parents we know are struggling with confusion over their adult child’s decision to become transsexual. They love their child unconditionally but the picture they had of their family and their child’s identity has been severely altered. How do they embrace this?
Read further and we’ll show you how you can process such setbacks.
A few years ago, my sister, Leslie, got a cut under her arm while shaving. The cut became infected and she took some antibiotics. While on the drug she experienced a phototoxic reaction after being slightly exposed to the sun. Severe burns set in over most of her body. Doctors couldn’t control the infection. Her blood became septic. Six months later we were holding her funeral.
How is it that life can be so beautiful one day and tragic the next? Some setbacks that happen seem so senseless and unexplainable.
How can we learn to forgive life for handing us a hard time?
Viktor Frankel has a lot to say about this. You may remember he spent some serious time in Nazis concentration camps- four to be exact. He said,
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
The tree that doesn’t bend, breaks
Think of a seawall. It will crack after the pounding of many storms. Because of its hardness, the concrete eventually destroys the protection it was intended to provide.
It has no give in it.
But, a salt marsh, on the other hand, receives and absorbs the waves and lets them pass through without resistance. It goes on thriving even after a hurricane.
Richard Rohr has taught us so much about forgiving life. He said:
In Genesis 16, Noah’s ark is not meant to be a cute children’s story; it is a mature metaphor for the People of God on the waves of time, carrying the contradictions, the opposites, the tensions, and the paradoxes of humanity…
(The ark held both male and female, dangerous and tame, humans and animals just as every life has it’s opposites.)
God’s gathering of contraries is, in fact, the very school of salvation, the school of love. That’s where growth happens…
Forgiveness becomes central to Jesus’ teaching because to receive reality is always to “bear it,” to bear with reality for not meeting all of our needs.
To accept reality is to forgive reality for being what it is, almost day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. Such a practice creates patient and humble people.
To accept life is to forgive life for being what it is.
Can you begin to do that?
We don’t have to like it. We certainly need a good amount of time to grieve it. We don’t recommend rushing that stage. But, ultimately, relaxing into acceptance is our ticket to peace.
We so appreciate the full picture of life Ecclesiastes 3 tries to help us embrace within the tension of its opposites:
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which was planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.
We could add our own experiences to this list. We bet you could, too.
- There will be love and loss.
- There will dark and light.
- There will be pride and shame.
- There will be welcome and there will be rejection.
- There will be success and failure.
- There will be faithfulness and brokenness.
- There will be hope and despair in every life.
And though we cannot control any of these happening to us we can control how we move through them and come out on the other side with less suffering and more peace.
Learning to hold life’s opposites at the same time without denying either is almost a daily practice for us.
In a future blog, we’ll talk about forgiving others and forgiving ourselves.
But today life is in need of your forgiveness for what it has brought you.
Forgive it. Release it.
Can you get alone and give yourself space to grieve life if you need to?
Can you begin to let your heart soften, to relax your resistance to what has happened or is happening?
A bending tree does not break.
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