Forgiveness is not always a one-time thing. Often times there are serious offenses and deep wounds that require confronting each day and making the difficult and conscious decision to forgive. But we do so, with as much love as we can manage, for as long as it takes. Because every single act and feeling that accompanies the refusal to forgive becomes poison to us, burying our hearts and diminishing our compassion so that it creates problems in every other relationship in our lives.
We cannot love only some of the time. Love is always, or not at all. Even weak, even struggling love is immensely consequential, and genuine love leaves no room for bitterness or grudges or anything contrary to its nature.
If you ever asked if I miss you, I would probably say that I always miss you; that I missed you when we got to be genuinely good friends, and I knew it wouldn’t always be that way. And that I missed you when we started to talk less, and when you got back to dating the girl who tore your heart up, and when our conversations several times a week turned into conversations once a week, turned in to conversations occasionally, and we didn’t really say much at all. That yes, I missed you even when you were always there and when I realized just how important you became, and that I’ve been missing you ever since.
Honesty and communication are inarguably vital aspects of any good relationship, but the difficulty is that it takes a great amount of humility, bravery and vulnerability to actually sit with another person and explain to one another what’s going on and what you’re feeling and where you’re at. And so even though it seems like something we should have mastered by the time we finish high school, in fact, years later we see it at the root of of so many broken friendships and struggling relationships. Because there are certain abilities that we don’t simply ‘magically’ acquire as we become adults. Rather, there are certain things that we have to fight tirelessly for and work relentlessly at and die to ourselves in order to get to where we need to be.
At any stage of our lives, regardless of how old we are or wise we should be, there are parts of ourselves that are still like little children, still just learning how to love better.
Thus, the price of forgiveness for both the one who concedes it and the one who receives it is the passage through death to resurrection. It is death to one’s own false and hypocritical “good” conscience, the security of feeling “in the right,” to the complacency derived from sensing an unjustly received offense; death in accepting the reality of an offense given that wounds one’s own dignity and not stepping back out of shame. To forgive is to step down from one’s pedestal and lower oneself to making the laborious climb back up together with the one who has created the offense. It is taking co-responsibility for the others conversion without letting a self-righteous justice get in the way. Accepting forgiveness means seeing the cost of one’s healing in the Cross, becoming capable of reestablishing justice and thus achieving the resurrection of wounded love.
I love the sound of your heartbeat. I love the steady rhythm, like an age-old lullaby, strong and quiet and comforting… and immensely peaceful.
I love the sound of your heartbeat. It is the most beautiful sound in this world, because it means that you’re present and you’re living and you’re close to me.
I love the sound of your heartbeat. And that is all.
I think it’s very sad, and even somewhat perverse, to hear someone talk about the day before marriage as their “last day of freedom.” I would think, rather, that the day of marriage would be your first day of freedom, the first day that you are truly free to fully express, for the rest of your life, your love for your spouse through that beautiful sacrament. And what an extraordinary freedom that must be.
What if we wrote letters to the people we love, filled with all the intricate and detailed reasons why we love them? I’ll write one for everyone. You’ll never read it, but I’ll write one for you.
At the time that we met, I did not like you and I did not like the taste of coffee. And then there was an incident with a thermos of the stuff and a single cup and no trace of cream or sugar. And I rarely drank after anyone, but I drank after all of you, and it was my first taste of strong, hot cowboy coffee, with none of the fixins, one sunshiney morning.
I loved the taste of coffee years before I ever loved you.
There were bags of ginger snaps and some pointless memories and a thousand unremarkable days between, and that camping trip when you stole someone’s firewood and breathed our dying coals into life and for a single instant, in the darkness of very-late-at-night or very-early-in-the- morning, when you were definitely the most captivating thing I’d ever seen. And there were those unlikely prayers, said every single day, for hundreds of weeks longer than I cared who you were anymore. And that was it, and you were nothing, and you were less than you’d ever been, just a memory, just a friend of a friend whose acquaintanceship never came to be anything except for prayers that for some reason I continued saying, out of habit.
And then there your name was, on a text message containing an apology I would have bet my life on never receiving, and we were lifetimes apart and miles away, each bobbing in a sea of heartbreak that had absolutely nothing to do with one another. And it was like God knew that we needed each other, and that was the first of a thousand surreal experiences of being impossibly linked to you.
And we were friends, and we were everything we needed each other to be, without ever needing to be more than that. And let me tell you, I was astounded by the trust that I had for you and the love that I had for you, because I could count on my fingers the other friends who had ever meant as much to me, and most of them I’d known nearly the length of my life time.
And you taught me more about love than I knew before. I suppose that every person who you ever care for does, but this was important. You showed me that it’s still possible to learn to love other people in other ways, even when your heart is broken. You showed me that it’s still possible to be loved even when you have no love for yourself. These are simple notions, but impossible realities.
You were impossibly platonic four-in-the-mornings, tipsy on whiskey enjoying ridiculous movies. You were the sleepy voice coming from the second sofa. You had this great big bed but you always slept on the other sofa because the very first time I slept over I drunkenly forbid you to go upstairs to sleep, (“because then I’ll be here all alone”) and after that it was never a question.
You were gorgeous, you were. But you were unheld hands and shoulders that I never laid my head on, you were silliness and flirty jokes that never once came to anything. You were the difference between loving someone and using someone, and I would never trade the nothing-that-ever-happened for anything. Not for anything.
I would not do you the injustice of saying you were like a brother to me. The fact is that you had mesmerizing mystery-eyes (I said they were blue but you said they were green; I think maybe you’re just color blind). You were sweet smiles and magnetic laughter and a mumbling, tussled picture of perfection in the mornings. But more importantly, you were a heart of gold and unfailing encouragement, constant comfort and the only other one who could always calm the chaos of my anxious mind. You became a thousand “thank-God-for-beautiful-creation’s” because you were such a beautiful creation.
Now you’re a man with a woman who doesn’t like boyfriends who have women friends. And that’s okay with you, and less okay with me. But in the words of a silly show I doubt you’ve never seen, “I’ll be okay, because I met you.”
And you, you’ll always remain a gift worth thanking God for, and a prayer intention that won’t simply stop mattering anymore.
I’ll drink coffee, and I won’t put anything at all in it, and I’ll think of you.
I’ll drink coffee, and I’ll love it, and I’ll love you more, sweet friend.
I have a hundred million issues with fear and courage, with strength and insecurities and niches and loneliness. I feared the time when all of my closest friends moved away, or got married, or grew distant; I feared the time when for varied reasons they weren’t here anymore. And I felt weaker afterward, and I’ve never felt as strong in quite the same ways. I feared being in love. I didn’t fear commitment, but I feared my capacity to love and I feared how I couldn’t stop loving when the other person did, and that I’ve never stopped, and I feared the pain that comes when you watch someone you love loving someone else, and I still do. I fear pain of the heart so potent it’s physical and your stomach is twisted into sick and nervous knots that medicine cannot fix, the kind that comes in so many different ways, because there are so many different kinds of love, and so many different kinds of lonely. I fear loneliness that comes in waves- not solitude, but loneliness that you drown in until it leaves you breathless and it leaves you just a ghost of someone stronger and more care-free. I fear the nostalgia of everything that reminds me of people I don’t talk to anymore, and I fear the way that thoughts of the future can unwind into a million anxieties about a billion things that may or may not happen, and how the way that you feel when you’re scared projects itself into the future until it ruins everything you look forward to and leaves you feeling like everything ahead is nothing more than an extension of all your insecurities. I fear that the rough times will make me ‘strong’ in a way that really just means ‘numb,’ or that the rough times will weaken me until I have no fortitude left to face the world. I fear the idea of new things, even good things, which maybe really means that I dislike myself too much to hope for happiness.
But I trust in my Savior. And the realization of that trust and that love comes crashing down in silent moments and sleepless nights and dark days and at the foot of cross where you kneel with clenched fists and steady tears, And then there is this mysterious phenomena that happens when your faith demands immense sacrifice and acute self-awareness and a call to greatness more demanding than all other things when suddenly for once, you aren’t afraid.
And for a couple of years my life has been this tug-of-war between this wholly sincere desire to trust in Him, and this crippling fear of what that actually involves… of the amount of self-awareness and tearing open wounds to reach the source of the problem… and the astonishingly calming realization is that essentially I am the problem. And this is not to say many experiences didn’t act as a catalyst to where I am now, but rather sometimes when times are difficult we retreat into ourselves and our solitude breeds solitude and we find ourselves in this horrible place where we are so afraid of the truth of things that we back away from it in this attempt to avoid pain. But cowardice never leads to anything remotely resembling happiness. And when everything bright in us fades out of visibility, all that people can see in us is our pain and heartache and insecurity and when we seek comfort we seek comfort in the wrong things. And when I prayed, sincerely desiring to be honest and open, it was never as honest and open as when I sought comfort in other people. Maybe this is because of that cowardice, because praying to an all-knowing God allows too much room for self-awareness and too much risk of being asked to step out of the niche you’ve buried yourself in, and so even sincere attempts to give the burdens of my heart to Him were held back by the acute fear of doing so. And so I went to other people… people I was close to, and burdened them with so much pain that should have been given to God, but as I was recently reminded, we carry this baggage around with us, and if we never resolve it or get rid of it, we end up sharing our baggage with the people we love and the thing is, it isn’t fair to burden anyone- not your friends or your family or your spouse or anyone- with every single hurt you carry around with you. There are some things we should take directly to God. The ones we love are our support system, which is wonderful and necessary, but we should want to share our life with someone, not everything that’s destroying us, because when we go to the ones we love with all of these things that we can’t fix and that they can’t fix everyone ends up hurt and broken and frustrated. Everyone ends up lonely, distanced by these issues that only God is great enough to heal.
There is healing only through truth, and only through resolving to reach the heart of a problem instead of burying the symptoms.
The inexplicably beautiful thing about Christianity and Catholicism in my life is that it isn’t a useless bunch of strict rules that I feel limited by… it’s a way of living in which I feel more free than when living by the worlds ideas of ‘freedom.’ I rediscover conviction and resolve and a will to fight when I’m being called to the greatest challenges of my life, and rising to meet them with strength that can come only from faith and from truth, is the only thing that I am not afraid of.
“And the One who sat on the throne said, ‘See, I make all things new.” Rev 21:5