“Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” – Peter Ustinov
A lot of people struggle with the idea of resurrection. The literal religious telling of a man overcoming death, of his coming back amongst the living for 40 days to teach the most esoteric and divine lessons of his life is hard to grasp for many. It is the tale that divides the believers and non-believers most passionately. In fact, believing the story is foundational to the fate your own death will bring you, or so those that passionately believe will tell you. There is no middle ground, you are saved or you are out. The black and white of it all is where many people lose faith.
It is ironic that the story that was intended to save us from our selves, actually continues to divide us. Within the literal story of the resurrection, may lie the deeper meaning and the opportunity for finding forgiveness. In a world of imperfect humans, forgiveness may be our only access to a life beyond the one we know and may well be the story that Jesus came back to tell. If love is a verb, than forgiveness is the action verb. It is the highest form of love and the single behavior that most distinguishes our human potential.
In an ancient tale from the Kaballah, God told the angels in training that the capacity to forgive is the most excellent gift in the human experience, more essential to the continuity of life than the courage to sacrifice your own life for someone else or enduring the pain of giving birth. God explained to one angel, “Forgiveness is the only reason my creation continues. Without forgiveness, all would disappear in an instantaneous flash.”
The need for forgiveness on our planet has probably never been more acute than it is today. Desmond Tutu once said that,”Forgiveness and reconciliation are not just ethereal, spiritual, other-worldly activities. They have to do with the real world. They are “real politik”, because in a very real sense, without forgiveness, there is no future.” And yet we don’t have to look that far. For most of us, right in our own homes, we struggle with hurts, real and imagined, that separate us from the ones we say we love. The smallest of details in sharing a life with someone can easily and often without notice turn into a storyline about the person you say that you love.
Before Christ was born, Marcus Aurelius said, “our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.” The petty arguments of life are the cracks in the foundation of the relationships we are building. Left unresolved, we often fall into the established patterns of retreat and attack that impact both partners’ abilities to be emotionally available and vulnerable.
My youngest daughter’s friend Lilly lost her father to a battle with cancer today. I met him a few weeks ago at the cultural fair at their school He seemed well then, but maybe he knew as he glanced through the stories of all the 6th grade lives that this was his last look. Did he get to forgive everyone that he needed to before his last moments of consciousness? Did he get to forgive himself? The more time I spend here, trying to love people, trying to learn to love myself, the more convinced I am that the only thing that we have time for is forgiveness.