Lent corresponds with my busiest weeks at work all year. After days of long hours answering phones, expediting everything from memos to conference calls, working through lunch to meet timelines and demands, I’m spent. And tired. And agitated. And irritable. Inevitably, I hurt people and feel hurt by them, even it’s unintentional. I could let these infractions slide and blame them on the busy season, but what I really need to do is practice forgiveness.
Many of us associate the season of Lent with fasting and repentance. We don ashes, give up dessert and dwell on all the ways we’ve messed up. There is a time for that, of course, but this year I’m looking at forgiving others. My Eastern Orthodox friend inspired me by describing how his church starts Lent.
Imagine this. It’s the last service before Lent. You and your friends and family have gathered, and everyone anticipates the usual biblical call to fasting, instructions on how to observe the season, and an invitation to eat pancakes after the service in one last hurrah before the fast begins. And then from the lectern comes a call.
Right there in the nave, the congregation is encouraged to go to people they have wronged (knowingly or unknowingly), and ask them for forgiveness!
This struck me because I often think about my own failings and how grateful I am to be forgiven, while ignoring how unmerciful and unforgiving I am when someone hurts me. This public exercise would force me to do both: confess and pardon. To truly let this season of Lent speak, I can’t separate repentance from forgiveness. But that’s so hard!
Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. We don’t want to forgive people who hurt us. We want to forget or distance ourselves. We want to bury hurt deep inside where no one, not even ourselves, will find it. Or we make sure everyone we know understands exactly how badly this person hurt us and how said person should come groveling on hands and knees pleading for our mercy. We have to forgive though, because it is at the core of our faith:
"Christ could and did shoulder the consequences of human sin; so the penalty for wrongdoing can be detached from wrongdoers.... When we forgive those who have wronged us, we make our own God's miracle of forgiveness. Echoing God's unfathomable graciousness, we decouple the deed from the doer, the offense from the offender. We blot out the offense so it no longer mars the offender...." – Miroslav Volf
Jesus himself said that we must forgive others just as our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. That’s quite a charge, and certainly something for me to focus on this Lent.
Random Acts of Poetry
For next Friday’s Random Acts of Poetry, write a poem about forgiveness: how you forgave yourself or someone else, how you asked for forgiveness, a serendipitous moment when forgiveness fell miraculously into your lap, your thankfulness for forgiveness―anything forgiveness related! You can even use words from the quote above as a jumping off point. When you finish your poem, drop your link into the widget below by noon on Wednesday, April 5th, to be included in the list and possibly featured!