I’ve spent several months thinking about a topic that has come to mean alot to me personally. At a certain point in life we need to make peace with what has been OUR life. These next many months I hope to share each week on Monday another installment of my reflections on this topic. I pray it is meaningful to someone. Joy! Sr. Kathryn
The sunrise is the glorious announcement of something new, a new opportunity for joy, for birth, for creativity, for relationship, for love. As the sun stretches its arms of color across the horizon, gradually exchanging its pastel colors of a sleep dawn for the solid gold of day, the night is left behind. Even at times the memory of the darkness is gone. Only the expectant future, pregnant with promise remains.
To run along the horizon at morn, to dance with the dawn, to explode with the joy of a future that leaves the past in the past is one of the greatest habits of mind and heart that we can develop. God gives us the opportunity to practice these habits day after day, for the sun rises every 24 hours and the possibility of joy is there again.
For Jerry, however, the sunrise was not full of promise. Instead it was a piercing reminder to him of the worst he felt about himself, shackling him more painfully than if he were in prison. The love of his life had left him, and the sun no longer shone. Jerry dragged himself through the motions of his job, volunteering at his parish, spending time with his boys, but his heart was hollow with an empty darkness that wouldn’t lift. He didn’t know why she left, how she could do it. Yet a secret niggling in the back of his heart worried him, embarrassed him. He didn’t want to fully remember the way he had treated her as he pursued his career, the way in which he hadn’t heard, hadn’t seen, hadn’t felt her appeals for his time, his attention, his support as she balanced a job and the ongoing care of her mother. Now, it was too late. Now, he couldn’t forgive himself. And he couldn’t even allow the shame of what he had feared he had done, what he knew he had done, to emerge into the light. He kept himself “in the dark” so to speak of an inner truth he couldn’t deny. The sunrise didn’t happen for him, although the sun rose day after day.
Those who can’t forgive themselves cannot touch the sunrise, literally often seem to surround themselves with darkness instead of light, and spiritually they feel trapped and unable to find satisfaction and peace in life.
The reasons for which we can’t forgive ourselves are as many as there are people. Each of us has his own unique history, her own story, a life checkered with successes and failures, mistakes and sins, things we wish we could have said, would have said, or feel we should have said or done. There are forgotten sins that lie deep in our consciousness, hidden in our souls, too long ago to remember easily, to painful to recall. They have slipped from our everyday awareness. Life continues but we live in an unexplainable sadness. Then there are sins we’ve brought to Jesus in the sacrament of Reconciliation, but, just in case, we keep reminding him, just in case he really didn’t forgive us, or we didn’t say it exactly right, or we didn’t include all the details. Ultimately these are sins we haven’t forgiven ourselves for. Sometimes it is what others say that reminds us of choices made and impossible now to reverse. Perhaps we fear God will one day bring up a past decision or mistake. We might secretly fear being sent to hell, deprived of his love forever, the only one missing on the eternal shores of bliss. Perhaps we know all too well, or have been told of our deficiency as a parent, a priest, a superior, an employer, a religious sister or brother, a sibling, and there is no way now to make right what we did, who we were, what happened, how we reacted. There are myriad ways in which we continue to walk in darkest midnight, afraid of touching the sunrise.
What this blog will help you do
First I’m going to ask you to stop trying to forgive yourself. You’ve tried that. There is no magic bullet. Self-forgiveness will take you by surprise when you least expect it if you step back, ease up, and take a walk through your own inner space, a walk that is gentle, casual, and tender.
Second, by working your way through this blog, and it will be work, you will touch aspects of your history, of your soul, of your heart that you may not have had access to for a long time. This is good. By just being with all this, doors will open.
Third, there is no more perfect healing than the truth, and your deepest truth is revealed to you through the heart of God. In these pages you will be led through the Word of God into a deeper relationship with the God who made and loves you.
For an index to all the posts on how to forgive yourself, click here