Mahatma Ghandi once said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
There seems to be a theme in the last few weeks for me regarding living in the present moment and overcoming anxiety. Today is Ash Wednesday, a major celebration in the Catholic Church as it starts the season of Lent. Lent is a time for renewal, for rebirth, for taking a look at yourself and seeing what areas you need to grow in. This season is not without its share of suffering, however. It ends with Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday, but it also represents life when we celebrate His resurrection on Easter. These 40 days are full of fasting, almsgiving, and a deeper reflection of ourselves. It is a call to be aware and to be present in the moments of every day life.
Lent is a time to forgive and ask for forgiveness. A priest that I know shared his homily from last weekend. The readings were about living without anxiety. In his homily, the phrase that stuck out to me was “you cannot forget until you forgive.” That prompted me to find a video by Fr. Mike Schmitz about forgiveness. In it, he said forgiveness incorporates justice, but not necessarily the way we think of it. Justice means someone gives you what they owe you. However, forgiveness is knowing what someone owes you and choosing to unbind them from that so they no longer owe you it.
An important part that hit home was that it is a choice. You can choose to hold onto something with a choke hold, but you will never be free from it then. It can overwhelm and control how you act, how you feel, and how you live your life in negatives ways. That is exactly what I have been doing with you. You apologized at that last conversation, but I wasn’t in a place to forgive you, I was too shocked and too hurt. I have been so caught up in the unfairness and in a sense what you took from me that I have held you in a choke hold, refusing to move on until I get what is owed to me. Father suggested taking a piece of paper and writing down everything that you feel you are owed because someone else hurt you. I was shocked at some of the things that I wrote down about people who had done some wrong to me that I never realized I had been feeling. He then said to ask God for the grace to set that person free so they no longer owe you anything. For this, I went to the Marian Shrine for strength.
On top of a hill overlooking Lewis and Clark Lake are three larger than life crosses. This is one of my favorite places to go for reflection and prayer. As I was sitting up there, I broke down in tears reading what I wrote. I read them out loud, at the foot of the cross, giving each one to the Lord. An image came to mind of Jesus on the cross saying “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” Luke 23:24. If Jesus, who was put to death by these people- who thus owe Him His life- can forgive and unbind them from that, how could I not do that with the people in my life? Also, Jesus rose from the dead and is now in Heaven, so that should be a pretty good sign that forgiveness is a good thing worth learning. Still, though, it was hard. Admitting that I had been hurt and how was hard. Letting those people go for it was even harder. But Jesus was calling me, begging me, to let them go. Only then could I, and those people I think, truly be free. Only then could Jesus be free to work in all of our hearts, and my heart replied with “thy will be done Lord.” Immediately a peace came over me, and I was able to unbind these people in my heart.
I don’t know what God’s plan is. The last few months have shown me that I will never know really and that I can only trust. I’m also learning to be okay with all options of life and letting God show me the path. It’s very freeing, allowing God to lead you. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do better and be better, when all God is asking of us is to be with Him. Another thing that Father mentioned in His homily is the desire to keep focused on the future instead of the present moment. Father argued that the future is fake, full of unknowns, and causes us to live in fear if we dwell on it. Whereas the present is all we have, and we just need to say yes to God in it. I said one of my biggest yesses to Him today. Yes, it was difficult, one of the most difficult things He has asked me to do. But I’m getting stronger with each “yes,” and I pray that you allow Him to give the same strength to you.