I tend to be super reflective during my birthday month. I think about what went well the previous year, what didn’t, victories I’ve gained, mistakes to never make again, friends I’m grateful for, and enemies who’ve made me stronger. As I’ve gone down memory lane for Year 33, I’ve discovered that the most powerful lesson that I have learned this year is how to forgive. Apparently in between praying for smaller thighs, more adventure, and a husband who is the perfect combination of Idris Elba, Steve Harris, and Wynton Marsalis on my last birthday, I must have also prayed, “God, please give me one of the worst breakdowns I’ve ever had with another human being and please let me take six months to get over it. Love, Leah.” I thought I was pretty good with forgiving but apparently God wanted me to sharpen my skills.
The breakdown started off as a fairly benign conversation. I sat and listened and thought this was just going to be just another great day of fellowship. But the more I listened, the worse it got. It was as if with each word, there was a cataclysmic bomb exploding in my face. By the end of the conversation, I was stunned into silence. When I got home 30 minutes later, I literally flew into 48 hours of rage. I cried. I screamed. I went through my apartment and gathered every single thing that person had ever given me and threw it in the trash. I was BEYOND hurt. I was FURIOUS.
For the first few weeks, I was just stuck on “Why?” Why was I now privy to information that had NOTHING to do with me and I wish that I didn’t have to carry? Why was I yet again in the position of being everyone’s spiritual loofah sponge with no regard to how I would feel after they’ve sloughed off all of their pain? The next phase was just making that person wrong for EVERYTHING. If their name came it, you could pretty much guarantee a 20-minute tirade from me about how they were the scum of the earth and all the world’s ills fell on their shoulders. Heck, I think one day, I even blamed them for global warming.
And then on a December night, I asked God “Why” again for the umpteenth time and the answer was clear as day: “Leah, you just have to FORGIVE. This conversation didn’t happen TO you. It happened FOR you.”
In that moment, I began seeing that forgiving didn’t mean that that conversation didn’t hurt me to the core. It didn’t mean that I had to pretend like it never happened. It didn’t magically make the situation “right.” It meant that I had to simply forgive my transgressor for being human. I had to forgive because one day in the very near future I’m going to need someone to accept my “I’m sorry” without retribution. I had to forgive because I’m sure that I’m just one conversation away from saying something so God-awful that it shatters someone’s spirit. I forgive because I’m positive that I’m going to have to break out Anita Baker’s “I Apologize” and sing it to the top of my lungs to someone I really love. Most importantly I forgive because God looks down at my ratchet, ungrateful, often unrepentant, choosing to watch “Scandal” over spending time with HIM self and FORGIVE and LOVE me EVERY DAY anyway.
Forgiveness ain’t easy. There are days when that conversation creeps out from the back of my mind and I get angry all over again. But then I know that my only way back to peace is to forgive and forgive and forgive (and forgive and forgive and forgive!) again. Unfortunately, that relationship will never be what it was, but if going through the pain of that breakdown helped me to expand my level of forgiveness and allow my fellow humans to be, well human, then truly God’s will was done.
FORGIVENESS. It’s the new black. Will you try it on today?