This is April, 2020. I just opened my email and was overwhelmed with subject lines boasting of Corona virus coping strategies. I’m getting a lot of important advice. Likewise, when you open an email from me I want it to be meaningful. So in addition to concentrating on “the virus” conversation, I’m reviving my focus on this month’s celebration of our most holy time, Passover and Easter. To me, these celebrations whisper and proclaim HOPE and FORGIVENESS. I’ve been asked to share about forgiveness for quite a while and I’ve avoided it. Avoidance usually tips me off that I have unresolved problems with whatever I’m avoiding. Does this subject make me a little anxious? Probably. My experience with forgiveness is both good and bad. It stirs up a lot of mixed feelings.

When I decided to connect the Corona virus to the subject of forgiveness for this month’s post it seemed like a stretch. But I realized what they have in common. Both remind me the world can be a lonely, anxious place when we can’t be together, trust each, and support each other.

Perhaps withholding forgiveness from each other is a kind of spiritual virus. What does forgiveness means to you? I like to look at the original definitions of words. The earliest Latin root of FORGIVE means, to give completely. Forgiveness is about giving! It wasn’t defined by forgetting or removing responsibility for something hurtful.

Well, what are we supposed to give?  Are we supposed to “give up” what we believe is right, or “give in” and say it wasn’t that bad after all? Are we supposed to give our trust again? Not necessarily. Forgiveness may include such things but they don’t define it.

When I am hurt and feel like running away, I’m pushing myself to give. I might not forget or excuse a wrongdoing but perhaps I can forGIVE others (and myself!) with the gift of patience, understanding, or another chance. I think God’s forgiveness is best defined not only by what is taken away but by what is given to us: perfect and eternal life and love – and million second chances.

Have we always been defined by the forgiveness we seek? To some extent yes, because without giving and getting forgiveness our lives show sad signs of rejection and abandonment, showing up as anger and defensiveness. We push each other away, wondering what a relationship is supposed to look like going forward. Simon and Garfunkel described this with their lyric, “I am a rock. I am an island.” Without forgiveness we are like islands.

Our most basic instinct is to seek (crave) “togetherness.” Togetherness is more than being physically together or connecting of Skype, FT or Zoom. Webster’s dictionary adds that it is comfort and reassurance too. It’s a physical, emotional and spiritual connection.  Being together, really together, requires forgiveness. Because forgiving is, GIVING, generously our best, what is good and what is right.

Like me, you might be asking, “When we will be together again?” “Will life resume as we knew it?” I hope not. I hope we are jolted out of our complacency and certainties to renew our appreciation for each other.

Here’s the take away:

  1. When we are physically apart, follow God’s example and draw closer spiritually in holy places and sacred spaces of prayer.
  2. Second, forgiveness takes practice. Expand your definition and effort. Forgive yourself and others by asking, “What can I give?” instead of “What must I give up?”
  3. Lean in to God’s forgiveness, the gift of perfect Life and Love.