1/16/2014

Palimpsest: Forgiveness, Part 3

Lay Down Your Stones Part 2:  Forgiving, Not Forgetting

Genesis 33:1-17


Readings:
I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness – that I am one of the other kind. But even though it was funny, and actually true, it started to be too painful to stay this way. They say we are not punished for the sin but by the sin, and I began to feel punished by my unwillingness to forgive. By the time I decided to become one of the ones who is heavily into forgiveness, it was like trying to become a marathon runner in middle age; everything inside me either recoiled, as from a hot flame, or laughed a little too hysterically. I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years – four former Republican presidents, three relatives, two old boyfriends, and one teacher in a pear tree – it was "The Twelve Days of Christmas" meets Taxi Driver. But in the end I could only pretend that I had. I decided I was starting off with my sights aimed too high. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, "If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo."
– Anne Lamott


 Dear Abby:
My brother-in-law is a registered sex offender. I am uncomfortable having him stay at our house with my husband and me and our children. My mother-in-law insists we need to forgive him and let him stay...Am I right to refuse, or do I let him stay and be on major guard? Mommy in Memphis
Dear Mommy: As a mother, it is your job to protect your children. Because you feel your brother-in-law might be a danger to them, he should sleep elsewhere — and “forgiveness” has nothing to do with it. —  January 11, 2014

(Forgiveness) represents a choice to leave behind our resentment and desire for retribution, however fair such punishment may seem ... Forgiveness means the power of the original wound’s power to hold us trapped is broken. – Marjorie Thompson, “Moving Toward Forgiveness”

In like manner, one woman in our congregation wrote,
You can choose to harm everyone because you were hurt, or you can choose to harm no one because you were hurt. Either way, it’s a choice. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of victimhood and choose the former, but thankfully God gives us a divine capacity for love and forgiveness. And when we use that gift, it fills our lives with so much joy that it’s impossible to be resentful to those who do not have that same joy in their lives.
The woman went on to quote the chorus of an old Shaker hymn:
No storm can shake my inmost calm/While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,/How can I keep from singing.
— Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. — Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer

Questions:
· Do you have a situation in your life that you find it hard to forgive? Do you feel pressured to forgive? Is forgiveness something that is calling to you? Is it too hard right now?
· Is it all right to forgive someone but not forget what happened?

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