As I wrote I noticed that there were natural parings: where I had been wronged, I so often harbored resentment, fear of or anger toward that person, and were I had caused pain to another (whether with intentionality or by carelessness) I had often provoked unfortunate behavior toward me by them. Some relationships had gone so far wrong that I just could not as a human bean imagine how things might get better. One person I was angry with was dead! What did I do with that?
I just kept writing.......
And as part of the service of forgiveness we were invited to bring our lists forward where we placed them in a bowl of water and stirred until the paper was fully absorbed.
We were engaged in ending the retreat with hugs and weepy goodbyes so it was not until I started the 3 hour drive home that the tears started. Not sobs or frantic weeping, but a good, long cleansing and healing washing away. Filled with gratitude I found myself freed from so many useless fears and frustrations, bitterness and anger, and the need to keep defensive walls in place that had been keeping me enmeshed in fear rather than keeping the fearsome things outside. I became more wiling to allow whatever relationship was possible rather than assuming a bad ending. I became more willing to offer an olive branch even when I was uncertain what needed fixing. I became more willing to believe that others had been growing too and were worth getting to know anew.
I do not mean to imply that I have it all together. I'm particularly still working on the dead one, but God is working tirelessly to get me further along that journey. New slights or frustrations arise, but if there is no good purpose I can discern in hanging on to them (activism or personal growth) it is easier to let it go. If there is purpose in it, it is easier to get busy doing what needs to be done so I am not damaged by embracing the chaos rather than the grace.
Anger, fear, frustration, resentment and bitterness are burdens, acids burning in our hearts that distract us from God, from God's plans, and make it so very difficult to accept that God could offer us what we can not conceive of offering to others whose failings so often have far less weight than our own willfulness against God.
Is it any wonder? If we can not conceive of forgiving another or ourselves, then of course it is so very difficult to truly believe in being forgiven by God.
God would so much like to have a conversation with you about this! He longs to lift this burden from your shoulders and will help you to loosen your grip!