This last Sunday my youngest son was to preach at my middle son's church, and so I got a phone call from Evelyn, my middle son's three-year-old. Was I coming down to her house?
"Yes, do you want to play?" I asked.
"Yes, and we can sit next to each other. And hold hands."
You gotta love little girls. They're so relational.
And so I went down and spent the weekend with Phil and his family, held hands with Evelyn, and heard Blake preach.
The sermon was on forgiveness--a topic Blake and I go around and around on all the time. Just what the heck does forgiveness mean anyway? That it's important is without question, but what the heck does it look like?
I grew up with the definition that forgiveness is all about forgetting. And so I strove to forget every wrong ever done and all that got me was more of the same. Just try forgetting that cars come whizzing down the road. Forget, you're going to get creamed. Remembering, it turns out, is critical for survival. So scratch that definition.
Another definition was one that prescribes toleration. Let a man hurt his wife seven times seventy and seven times seventy the wife must tolerate. A long time ago I scratched that one out of sheer exhaustion.
Once I was told you can only forgive once you've moved on, but how do you move on without forgiveness? A conundrum. So scratch that one too.
The one definition that Blake and I both agree upon is Anne Lamont's when she says that forgiveness is letting go of the wish for a different past. Which is more or less what happened with my molestation the year I was seventeen, when I realized that to expunge that victimization would be to mar the beauty of life and love I'd also known that year. Which was significant. I actually got myself into a bit of an emotional panic when I realized what I was doing; and very hastily I embraced that old darkness as part and parcel of the light I still have. I said as much to Blake on our way out of church.
"And so now of the three biggies in my life," I told him, "it's one down and two to go." We both knew what I was talking about.
In regard to his dad, a man I most certainly wish I'd never married, my preacher-boy son said, "Well, whenever you wish you'd never married Dad, just take a look at Evelyn."
Ahh! And so as of last Sunday my new philosophy is this. Forget forgiveness. Forget whatever the heck it is, or isn't. Instead focus on the life and love that is, miraculously growing out of all that old darkness.
And experience the redemption.