I believe that just as we sometimes need to practice gratitude, we must learn to practice forgiveness. What does it mean to practice forgiveness? How can you do that? What must one experience to warrant the need for forgiveness and why on Earth would anyone create situations just to practice it? How about we use "we" as a personally connecting word, so that if we see something that concerns us, we can consider forgiveness. I don't have superb answers...these are just a few of my elementary thoughts on the words forgive and forgiveness. I have MUCH to read and learn....and practice.
What comes to my mind is the June, 2015 incident in my beloved hometown of Charleston, SC - the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church. As I was driving from Charleston to Columbia to visit friends after visiting my mother, I was struck with profound sadness and tears at hearing accounts from folks all over the area calling into a local radio station. I actually had to pull over and take a few moments to cry and to listen. I cannot imagine what the victims' families were experiencing and I haven't lived in Charleston for several years, but it still greatly affected me. In discussing the shooting which had occurred the evening before, there were many tears and many angry statements. What hit me even more than this was the absolute and deeply connecting love from Charlestonians who had woven themselves together as a tapestry after hurricane Hugo in 1989. All backgrounds, all statuses, etc. coming together. This was coming across from the callers. It was an unspoken bond, yet with their support and love for Emanuel and the city itself, the bond was louder than anything else. I was so proud of my city. It would not become, as some news sources seemed to try and manufacture, a breeding ground for a racial debate or any another battle. Charleston is a unified city. I'm in a unique position having experienced this and then seeing it these past ten years here in New Orleans after Katrina. Both places, very dear to my heart, have become wells of hope for the true meaning of the word community and all the positive trappings that come with that.
|The Battery Palmettos, Charleston, SC. Photo: Caroline Carson,|
The timing seemed almost as unfathomable as the shooting itself.
Realizing that they forgave, out loud and to all, this shooter - who had infiltrated and betrayed the very heart of their church's hospitable and open environment, well.......wow. It was probably the most powerful statement of modern forgiveness that I have ever really personally felt. This forgiveness needed the first step to be a leap of blind faith. It needed to be said, regardless of whether or not it would be immediately felt. It would come.
Forgiveness does come. It is both unnerving and comforting. Do we deserve forgiveness? I think we do and maybe we should begin with allowing ourselves to forgive, even blindly at first.
I offer this quote from C.S. Lewis "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."
AdventWord was created by SSJE (The Society of St. John the Evangelist) and is the Anglican Communion's Global Advent Calendar. I'm using it as a daily meditation, prayer, and a way to connect in spirit to millions during this season of light and hope. You can join me in creating your own. Just take a picture and post it with the day's AdventWord tags! Click HERE for their website and for their daily AdventWords.