Monday, July 12, 2010

Needing to forgive

I got an email the other day from one of my college roommates.  Hmm, just made me stop and count (no small task)--in my college and post-college, single years I had eleven different roommates.  Yep, I said eleven. Whoa, that's a whole lot of women.  A whole lot of hormone-producing, cycle-aligning, romance-dreaming-for women.  Women with hopes and dreams, most of which involved men, some of which involved the same men at the same time (and sometimes even with me).  Anyway, I heard from one of them the other day, one of the first three with whom I lived in the town where I first went to college, within sight (at least through binoculars) of my own house, where my dad taught, my siblings studied, and many, many of my high school friends also went to college.  This roommate is a woman I've just reconnected with after a couple-of-decades hiatus, and we've found we still like each other, know each other and that our lives have turned out, if not exactly as we dreamed, close enough to those old dreams in some ways and far better than we could have imagined in most of the ways that actually matter in life.

About half-way through the first paragraph of her email, however, I had to put down my computer and go outside and throw for the dogs.  This wasn't because Maica was chomping at the bit the way she often is.  It was because I literally couldn't read past the sentence I'd just read in her email and needed to give myself a time out.  Her email threw a lasso around me and hauled me about thirty-four years into the past.  And I didn't like what I discovered there. 

The sentence was, "I got a call out of the blue yesterday from DY and he asked about you and [Beve]." 

DY?  A person I don't think of from year to year, decade to decade.  But my instant, gut-wrenching reaction was, "Don't tell him anything about me!"  because I was sure that the only reason DY would have for asking about me would be to hurt me. 

So I went out to the back yard, threw for the dogs and faced the very uncomfortable truth that I haven't forgiven this man for hurts done to me when I was 19 years old.  And what a shock that was.  Yes, it's true that he had hurt me, and hurt me badly.  This was a boy whose feelings for me didn't equal mine for his.  And I could have lived with that if he'd simply told me.  But he didn't. Instead, he simply walked out of my life and never spoke to me again, not to tell me why, not to so much as say a single word (and that includes some situations in which we were accidentally, uncomfortably, face-to-face).  He did, however, say many and varied cruel words about me to our many and varied mutual friends, some of whom felt it their duty to pass on. All of this--words, actions, inaction--I have apparently never forgiven. 

As I stood outside in the bright summer sun, I felt dirty and ugly not because of what he did all those years ago, but because of what I haven't done.  That night as I told Beve about it, he asked me what I'd do if DY called me up.  "There's no way he ever would," I said, trying to wiggle out of it.  And honestly, I can't imagine it.  But then, I was shocked that he'd ever ask anyone about me, given how much he hated me all those years ago (or even that he knew I'd married the Beve, for that matter).  Shoot, I'm not even sure he feels remorseful for how horribly he treated me. But Beve pressed.
 "Well, if he seemed really sincere, I would. I wouldn't be able to not."
But later, it hit me that I have to forgive him.  I have to.  Not for his sake, but for my own.  The fact that I hadn't, and the fact that I hesitated at all once I realized I hadn't, tell me how badly I need to forgive him.  I NEED TO.  My inability to forgive him is keeping me from being fully right with God.  It is sin against this man, yes, but more importantly, sin against God.  Whether DY ever asks, or even thinks he needs to ask, is actually beside the point. 

We must forgive.  The end.  Once we know we need to, we must.  Unilateral forgiveness, I've heard this called, which means forgiving someone who doesn't ask or even know they've sinned against us.  Oddly, if you'd asked me two weeks ago, I'd have told you I didn't have anyone I hadn't forgiven.  But it just took a single sentence in an email to make that house of cards topple. And here's what I'll tell you, it's harder work to forgive someone for something so deeply hidden and embedded for so many years.  The tentacles of such scars have reached far into my bones, it seems.  Sad to say.  But I'm working on it.  Kneeling on it, I should say.  I want that filth out of me, the fear of that boy, the clutch of pain in my chest that I associate with his name.  I want it gone.  I want to be clean.

And God, I know, wants that much more than I do.

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