Forgiveness has been a formidable challenge along my personal path toward inner peace and well-being. I think about forgiveness a lot. I search for forgiving feelings almost daily. I’m drawn to pay attention to challenges needing forgiveness looking for acts of compassion, mercy and pardon that may soften the trauma of injury and the scars of guilt.
Forgiveness is on my mind when I pray in search of ways to resolve, fix or release. Forgiveness is also in my soul when I feel afraid. Almost always, I am in need of forgiving myself. That seems the hardest part.
I read many books about forgiveness and sometimes wonder aloud about these fancy words: reconciliation, clemency, absolution, amnesty and exoneration. I wrote papers in seminary about the necessity of forgiveness for spiritual healing; the Christian notion of redemption as forgiveness and the concept of amnesty as a “family value.” (Think: New Testament…
Even in the silent still frozen death of late December winter,
I am soon given yet another chance to start again…
to change…to recreate…to renew…to release old and make new.
2015 can be different.
I’m not talking resolution. I am talking revolution.
Revolt, personally, against fear, anger, guilt, jealousy, hatred, violence, despair.
Give it up.
Make, personally, peace with myself.
I create my experience.
Start with me.
Others be much easier.
The Jewish King David (1040 BC-970 AD) was a well respected political and religious leader. The second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah, he ruled successfully for 40 years although he was at war defending his nation during most of those years. It’s believed he was an ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth. He was also a prolific writer and poet and many of his works are included in the Bible. (Think: The Book of Psalms).
I’ve been fascinated by David for years. It seems he was a very passionate guy. This king-warrior-poet-Biblical key character killed Goliath when he was just a kid and then grew up to lead Israel to victory again and again; a religious powerhouse for sure.
But David was also a bad boy. He literally stole the wife of one of his most loyal and honored soldiers, got her pregnant and then to cover his tracks, arranged to have the guy murdered. But once this crime was exposed by the Prophet Nathan, David turned to God.
His prayer asking for forgiveness is recorded in the Bible as Psalm 51.
I like Psalm 51 because its old and its real. It reminds me that people have been making mistakes forever… and people have been trying to change their ways for just as long.
Here’s a paraphrase by me that I’ve been told has been helpful:
“God, help me!
I have screwed up big time.
Forgive me. Take away my sins. Have mercy on me.
Be compassionate and pardon me.
Please, help me!
Wash me clean of my mistakes so I can release my guilt.
I know what I did. My sins are always on my mind.
I have done evil.
I admit my shameful thoughts, words and deeds.
They haunt me day and night.
I have sinned against you but I also know I have sinned against myself.
I am your creation.
I know you know what I’ve done.
I want forgiveness. I want to clean up my act. I want to change.
Clean thoughts, clean feelings, clean living.
I need to forgive myself.
Don’t throw me away. Please, don’t leave me alone.
I need and want peace of mind so I can be happy.
Help me fix my brokenness.
I release my guilt and shame and troubles.”
We’ve all sinned. We all need forgiveness.
If something is in the way of your Sacred or yourself, try this ancient prayer.
As an interfaith minister, I study the very best teachings of the world’s religions and honor the spiritual wisdom of their beliefs and traditions.
I believe all paths lead to one God, the Divine, the Sacred. Each path reflects the rich diversity of our collective human experience. Religion is one strand of the fabric of who we are as a species.
Differences abound. Different gene pools, cultures, histories, geographical and climactic adaptations… we seem to have mastered our differences quite well.
But so many of our difference represent nothing more than different groups of people in collective search of a bit of purpose and meaning in their often chaotic, unpredictable and uncontrollable lives. Indeed, we cherish our joys but also mourn our sorrows.
We don’t have to look very far to realize that people are people with varying degrees of successes and failures when it comes to coexistence. Some individuals coexist better than others. Some couples coexist better than others. Some families/tribes coexist better than others. Some groups/nations coexist better than others. Some religions coexist better than others. Often, coexistence is not easy but it can be accomplished and it can flourish.
The ongoing intolerance, fear and vengeful behavior between Jews and Muslims is tragic and painful. It’s ungodly and despite its pretenses has nothing to do with spirituality… little to do with religion… and everything to do with both subtle and overt politics throughout millennia. It is, as I understand it, a stain upon our human evolution on this planet. (Christianity’s contribution to the terror will be the topic of another blog post).
I am committed to coexistence personally and professionally. I love my Jewish friends. I love my Muslim friends. I love having them to vegan brunch or lunch or dinner together… as I orchestrate opportunities to shake hands, see their bodies and souls and listen to each other as they share healthy, cruelty-free food and drink… over my glass-top table… my profane alter where “God and man at table are sat down.”
Regardless of that which is declared politically correct these days, I have come to believe that both Judaism and Islam are valid pathways to the Sacred. I believe that Israel is right. I believe that Palestine is right. I believe that Israel is wrong. I believe that Palestine is also wrong.
If war is to be the ultimate result of the Abrahamic religions’ coexistence… if the tribes of Abraham – Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot coexist – a friend says – then God has failed us.
I choose not to live that way. If Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot coexist, I believe that we have failed God.
Bluntly, I look for hope where ever I can find it. I choose to find hope here. Read with me:
ISTANBUL, TURKEY : Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople (R) blesses Pope Francis during an Ecumenical Prayer in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in Istanbul November 29, 2014. Pope Francis arrived in Turkey on Friday at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation, as it cares for 1.6 million refugees and weighs how to deal with the Islamic State group as its fighters grab chunks of Syria and Iraq across Turkey’s southern border. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)[/caption]
Bartholomew is the 270th and current Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, regarded as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Francis is the 266th and current Pope, Bishop of Rome regarded as the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Their two religions – Francis’ Roman Catholicism and Bartholomew’s Eastern Orthodoxy – have been at odds with each other since “The Great Schism” in the year 1054: a mega split effecting the beliefs, teachings, language, politics, history, geography and culture of a quarter of the world that to this day has never been forgiven.
This is what interfaith, hope, forgiveness… and change looks like today… THIS PHOTO IS HUGE!