There was a time when, every Wednesday morning, I was found in the local coffee shop: eating, drinking, talking, knitting. That’s where we gathered, the ladies and I. Some were teaching, some were learning; always talking, often laughing, sometimes sharing tears. We evaluated the past, we hoped for the future, we made plans and shared stories of our adventures. Then a break came and I wasn’t really supposed to be part of the group anymore. They didn’t care about that, they cared about me. They would welcome me anyway. But I felt obliged to keep distance, and so my Wednesday mornings cozied up to my own teapot, the television and my chair at home.
Four or five times I have met friends in the coffee shop; friends who are not part of that weekly group. It is slightly awkward to sit alongside the group I formed and yet not be part of it. Their door is still open, and on those days when I am in the same time and space I am present yet apart. Today was one of the rare days, parallel paths crossing. Three new faces have joined the circle and the table is more crowded, the empty space I left has been filled.
One by one, the extended hand stepped over to my side of the doorway. One by one we exchanged care. I am a part of the group and yet apart from the group. (Doesn’t it seem that ‘a part’ should be the usage that shows physical separation and ‘apart’ should be the usage that shows inclusion? This curiosity strikes me with its opposition.)
My friend and I try to chat, her three year old doesn’t want to share her and he is actively blocking our attempts at conversation. We struggle to connect and talk about our lives, recent trips, our maternal failings. We exchange snippets about parenting, teaching, Buddhism and lovingkindness (a harbinger?). I take out my copy of ‘One Thousand Gifts’ and hand it to her. A promise to share. I take out my knitting project and try to work a row, not sure I am following the pattern, I knit anyway.
This project has been in process for a couple of months. I pick it up and put it down, recognizing my resistance to completion. You see, I have designated this as a ‘forgiveness project’. With the admonition to love your enemies and to forgive them, I have been dragging the road. I step forward a few steps and then turn and run back. Why do I hold on to the hurt? Why has this pain become so precious that I don’t want to lay it down and let it be past?
The yarn is all sorts of bright. It is yellow, pink and orange. Sunrises, sunsets. It is spring and it is fall. It is light for a dark space. I had purchased it a couple of years ago intending for it to be my first sweater. There is a knitters adage that says your yarn will tell you what it wants to be. Evidently, this yarn did not want to be a sweater for me! As I had originally knit it into a body I found I did not like how it was turning out. The colors fell and pooled in a most unattractive way. Frustrated, I had put it down and walked away from it.
Back in the depths of winter I decided I wanted to knit a triangle shawl. I wasn’t sure who would receive this shawl, but at the time I was more interested in just having it to make. (Incidentally, when I started it I thought I was going to be knitting from the apex of the shawl, the point of the triangle, out to the hypotenuse. Surprise me when I discovered that in actuality I was knitting it in exactly the opposite manner! God works like that in our lives too!)
As it began to grow, I learned of my enemy’s growing trials. The ill and aged mother of the enemy was dying, really dying this time– it was undeniable. It was then I knew that the shawl was now a ‘forgiveness project.’ A little tap in my soul regarded my enemy’s brokenness and saw that it was widening–wouldn’t a shawl help to wrap up and contain that brokenness?
Seeing and acknowledging the brokenness in others that leads them to inflict brokenness. Regarding the brokenness as an opportunity for healing, for communion.
Communion with this other is still difficult for me. I feel no need to be reunited with this person. I feel no need for friendship or gospel kinship, yet I know that under God we are kin.
I know that God grieves when his children are at odds.
I know that my life cannot move forward, my life cannot be healed and renewed fully until I forgive; until I take back my confidence and stop giving control to darker forces that seek to keep me down and incapacitated to do kingdom work. Each stitch in the shawl must become an act of forgiveness and compassion towards my enemy.
I do not rejoice in my enemy’s losses and brokenness. I do have compassion, but do I have enough? Does it matter if I have enough compassion? Doesn’t my hope come from the Lord, in whom I find my strength? The answer is there. By God’s grace, I find strength to continue this forgiveness path.
My friend and most of the knitters have left the coffee shop. A few remain and their spouses come in for lunch. They will continue the fellowship with dining. And in walks the pastor of the church I used to be part of.
I take this as a sign the time has come. My intentions have been to do this weeks ago, but I suffer weak flesh and covenient forgetfulness, excuses.
My checkbook is in my purse, intentionally put there this morning, just incase I found the courage to make a step that I couldn’t run back from.
I received a gift, an inheritance, that I didn’t feel rightfully was mine. And, additionally, I felt judged because of the gift. What to do? What to do? Husband and I had talked and prayed about it months ago. I had made a decision, but my hardened heart froze with winter and I couldn’t thaw myself enough to pass on the gift.
I have been working on forgiveness for most of a year, longer. But with this one, I found myself bound up in an old sin that I thought I had overcome. My selfishness wanted to keep the gift for myself. I was justified wasn’t I? The gift had been given with loving intent to me. And with reduced income and increased medical bills, it was surely there to help me through this difficult time, wasn’t it? Hadn’t it come from God as much as from the giver?
I was beginning to see how my benefactor had given me a tool of forgiveness. I could humbly receive the gift and joyfully use the gift to lift up the memory of the giver! It was clear, early on, but still my selfish heart had resisted it. Though I wouldn’t spend the gift on myself, I held on to it. I thought I would use it as the closure to the forgiveness process, but the fact that it meant so much for me to hold it in security meant that it was likely it needed to be employed sooner rather than later.
A project was now underway at the church. The pastor, who was a friend long before I came to this place, had learned of my betrayal and was aware of many factors. I had told pastor of my path of forgiveness and of the place I thought it was leading. Pastor could not, can not walk my path for me and indeed it would be insanity to push along it. Our act of forgiving comes when we are faithful enough to take the step, not when we think our enemy has earned it or is ready for it.
Greeting the pastor today, I knew I had to commit this piece/peace of forgiveness. Pastor will act as conduit, carrying the gift back to the church, in memory of my benefactor, and for a project that means much to both benefactor and myself. The project is a practice in inclusion and breaking down barriers. Is there a better, more worthy thing to be acted on in this project of forgiveness?
The symbolism strikes my heart with a warming breath and the ice around it is melting.
This is what it means to live into the resurrection, to open up the tomb and be let out by the powerful graces of lovingkindness.
Giving thanks today:
81. A melting in the heart
82. Adversity that leads to learning and grace
83. Having something to give
84. When the giving is also the freeing
85. Caring that comes through doorways