Fourteen months I go I sat with the chaplain in my work place. It was only the second or third time we’d met, but I had turned to her for spiritual support and she knew my story. As an ordained member of the clergy in a denomination other than my own she ‘got’ all the dimensions of my situation.
As was our habit on meeting, we’d talked and I’d cried and then we prayed together. As we finished praying she began to laugh. I asked her what was funny and she told me that as we’d been praying she’d had a picture of me, but she said it was more like watching a film. I was running as fast as I could and I was chasing forgiveness. Behind me Jesus was running, trying to catch up with me, and from time to time he’d get close enough to grab something out of the bag I was carrying on my back and he’d throw it away. My bag was full of dried lumps of crap. Eventually Jesus shouted my name and ‘STOP’. I stopped and saw him and we sat down together. He told me to take my bag off and I said ‘What bag?’ I didn’t even know I had a rucksack full of dried lumps of crap on my back. I took the bag off and we began to talk about forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of others.
My minister friend suggested that there’d be a time that Jesus and I would sit down together. She said that I’d know when it was that time.
At that point in my journey I was unable to imagine ever forgiving myself or the other.
A few months later we met again and she recommended a book to me, ‘The Book of Forgiving’ by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. It wasn’t one that she herself had read, but she’d heard them speak about it and it sounded like a book very much based in reality and grace.
I bought the book and it sat on my bookshelf for 7 or 8 months. I couldn’t bring myself to read it. I wasn’t ready for what it might say, or for what might be asked of me.
And then on Christmas Day 2015 I picked it up. I was sick of living with unforgiveness tethering me to the past, and what better day to choose to do something about it than the day we celebrate Christ’s coming – the one who forgives; the one who makes all things new.
As I read the book it was as if the authors were inside my mind. They knew what I was thinking, what I felt, why this was such a hard place to be.
I knew that it was time.
“Nothing is easy for the unwilling. Without willingness this journey will be impossible … before forgiveness there must be the willingness to consider forgiving.”
The Book of Forgiving