I have spent much of the last few days searching the word "forgiveness" on the internet. The act itself feels pretty shallow. Before I can get to renewal, I realize I must get to forgiveness first.
It is not easy.
I came across a blog of my old minister, James Ishmael Ford. I adored James, and loved listening to him speak on Sunday mornings at the First Universalist Society in Newton. He is a Soto Zen priest and a Unitarian Universalist minister.
He reached me, over and over again. At the time I was an exhausted mother of three young kids, an avowed atheist and only going to church to keep the wife happy. He did not speak of God so much as he spoke of being awake.
And in being awake, you will find God- or whatever you may wish to call it.
I searched through his blog, looking for pieces on forgiveness. I found a lot of different sermons I liked. I do love the way he thinks, how he wraps the universal with the local, with the personal.
And really, no god. Well, in the context of spiritual text, sure.
I don't know why I have such a hard time with God, except to say that my father was "religious" and it creeped me out. He told me god talked to him- or maybe it was the mafia. I always had the sense that his abuse of my sister and I came from him thinking god was telling him what to do.
Leaves one with a bitter taste about god, as you can expect.
Personally, I think you can find a deep sense of spirituality without a church, a cross, or little wafers. But it is those rituals that give meaning, I suppose, of the sense of awakening.
But I don't need to find God right now, I need to find forgiveness. I have people in my life that have meant so much to me and if I don't get to a place of forgiveness, I will lose them.
My sister always pushes me to forgive my father. And others. Forgiveness, she said, gives you the chance to heal. To let it go.
Ten million years later, it seems, I am still not ready to let it go. Not with him.
But I must find forgiveness. I am going to lose something too precious. I tried, with unfortunate results. It came across as vindictive, and angry. I am angry, mind you. With good reason.
But that is not the result I want. Fire against fire... what good is that?
I go back to Rev. Ford's words- he talks about fire, and the symbolism in Hanukkah.
"I suggest we need, each of us, to draw upon our own deepest resources, the fire within. We need to recall the many different flames that inform us. That atavistic flame, for a start, the fire that gave humanity warmth and food and, of course, weapons. We need to recall the fires on the altars of the ancient Greeks and Romans. And, of course, we need to recall how that fire, when it seemed not enough, lasted, for eight days.
It is that last flame, the flame which sustains us past all reason, that I feel we're mainly called to reflect upon today. Swinburne got it right. It is the flame of love. It is the miracle at the heart of our lives, a gift passed on to us, and which we are honor bound to pass on to others.
That's the miracle that births love into the world. That is the flame which burns and burns throughout time, and across space.
I don't want to use fire as a weapon. I don't want to fight anymore. I want forgiveness.
I just haven't found the right words yet.