As I said in my last blog, I have been deeply touched by A New Year’s Guidance offered to us by Jesus, through Tom Carpenter. I also felt challenged by these words in it, (see last blog):-
“let no one escape the joy of your forgiveness”.
Have you noticed how forgiveness is such a great idea until you have someone in your life who actually seems to have hurt you?
This happened for me recently. Last autumn I was seeing a man increasingly frequently. I believed we were building the foundations to a solid, long lasting loving relationship. I was proud of myself that we had not jumped into bed, and yet were sharing what felt to me like an ever deepening intimacy and authentic love.
Please imagine my shock, when in December, seemingly out of the blue, he told me he had met someone on his travels with whom he wanted to explore a relationship. And, by the way, I found out she was 21 years younger than me, and him. All those thoughts of betrayal, hurt, rejection, disillusionment, humiliation slammed into me. I felt very angry, with myself, as much as with him. How could I have been so stupid?
I did not feel like speaking to him, but when he returned, he persisted in finding a way forward with me, since we live in the same, small village.
By this time, the message had arrived. “Let no one escape the joy of your forgiveness”. I was sceptical. Everyone but him, I thought in that moment. And yet, I knew that it is in the very places in our lives that feel repeatedly wounded, and with the very people it feels impossible to forgive, that the work needs to be done.
So before we met, I did the work. My goal was maintaining the feeling of the peace and love of God, and joining in the Oneness with this man I imagined, at that time, I “hated”. I gave all my horrible thoughts to the Holy Spirit, and asked with all my heart, for Truth to prevail in our meeting.
I felt nervous and awkward when he arrived. We met in the kitchen, in the morning, drinking coffee, instead of the sitting room, where we had shared so many evenings, curled up on the sofa together, by the fire, whisky in hand.
I told him I didn’t know how to proceed, on what level to speak. What I wanted was to be in the Truth of our Oneness, resting in the feeling that “nothing happened”, but that actually I wasn’t there.
Tentatively a conversation unfolded between us, and I tried to stay true to where I was, without blaming or judging him. I was determined not to join the ranks of his friends angry with him, reflecting his own self attack, although I could feel the pull to go there. I was able to express my hurt and bewilderment, which he received without defence or attack.
I cried. He cried. He said he still wanted to be friends with me. At that moment, for me, it felt impossible, but we both persisted in staying present, and inside I kept asking the Holy Spirit to help me.
He shared with me his world, his confusion about his life and his relationships. I was about to point out to him his shortcomings in that way we do that is meant to be helpful. But I remembered something Tom wrote in his book, The Miracle of Real Forgiveness, and so I stopped myself.
“no” I said, thinking aloud, “it’s not loving to point out somebody’s faults”.
At this he cried a lot more. It was like the all pain and the all the mistakes got washed away in that moment.
A new kind of peace arrived, and new ground opened up, upon which we could stand, fresh and new.
I cannot describe to you the happiness I felt after he left (and the relief that we were not together as boyfriend and girlfriend). Such a burden had fallen off me, and suddenly here I was with a new friend, with whom I felt more at ease than ever before.
We had a brief text conversation after our meeting:-
“I’m glad you came round today. In peace, and lovingly, Annie” I wrote.
“I’m speechless with thanks in how you spoke to me today” he replied later.
Forgiveness really works!
“Let no one escape the healing joy of your forgiveness”.
Post Script….. A couple of weeks passed, and this friend, dear to me in a way I had not imagined possible before, and I met for a walk and afternoon tea. We spoke about what we had each experienced in our meeting, and I told him I had written about it. I invited him to write about it from his perspective, and here it is, in his words, below.
It was not easy going to see Annie after what had happened because, as she rightly says, there was a strong connection between us, which had always been there and which we were both approaching differently this time, slowly, tentatively and in a very open way. We had not made any commitment as such but there was a growing intimacy and love that was hovering on that threshold and was of another kind than before.
Into this came unexpectedly another relationship of mine which hurt Annie as she has described but I was determined to go to her and front up to whatever she had to say to me. I went, as I often do to difficult meetings, sending ahead of me a night prayer, the evening before, asking for truthful speaking, understanding and a way forward. I still struggle to open my heart in such a way as to feel into the lives of others especially when I have caused them pain (and this has happened frequently).So I knocked at Annie’s door with a mixture of fear, guilt and torturous thoughts, hoping for the best, expecting the worst.
It was hard to hear again themes which have occurred in other relationships; betrayal, rejection, manipulation, my inability to know my feelings, how Annie felt used and the loving trust that was now shaken to its core. It was searing and I was spiralling down into a place of despair and self-flagellation and witnessing Annie’s pain was very difficult to face.
But in the midst of our tears and my self-made hell, Annie said two things that changed everything: the first was, “It is not loving to point out your faults, so I’m not going to go there”
I could see at this point that Annie was struggling and I knew, passionate and articulate as she is, that she would have no shortage of things she could hurl at me and I was still braced for the full venting of her pain. But, unexpectedly, on hearing those words I found I could breathe again and equally unexpectedly love was back in the room and love was breaking me down.
And there was more to come for she added “ What’s more, I’m not going to let you leave here feeling guilty”
I couldn’t quite believe what I’d heard but she kept repeating it and even added “and I’m going to check up with you from time to time that you are still not feeling guilty.”
It’s hard to express how this felt. The nearest image that comes to mind is one of having a huge stone lifted from my back and that feeling has not left me. I can still feel it and it still brings tears to my eyes when I revisit that moment. Suddenly, I was standing in a new life. It was as if a space had been created that I could not imagine, a space full of grace, which welcomed me unconditionally and left me free.
I feel immensely grateful to Annie for having the strength and love to reach the place she found in herself to speak those words and to stand in them. I still have a long way to go and other injured partners to make peace with and to feel no self-harming guilt in speaking with them but this experience has given me hope and a living experience of the unconditional joy of forgiveness.
This experience has set a seal on our friendship which has lifted it to quite another level and that in my life is most rare. It has created a new standard in my soul and I hope that if I am tested in a similar way I can also find this generosity.