Lent. That time of the year when I have great ambitions to make it to Stations of the Cross every Friday and when all chocolate is removed from within a 50-foot radius of my person. More importantly, it’s a six-week journey into the desert with my Maker. I’ve often wondered what that looks like. It seems just so abstract, and being the Type A person that I am, it is extremely unlike to me to NOT have a concrete plan. Lent is no exception. This year however, I decided to let God have even my “plans” for Lent, and just walk into the desert with Him through the mass readings – taking each day as He presented them to me through His word, and forcing me to slow down and really focus on what He was trying to tell me, as opposed to the Pharisaic checklist of “things to give up” that I had previously been accustomed to.
Two things stood out to me during the first two weeks – when Jesus teaches the Our Father prayer and the recurring theme of forgiveness and love to those who have hurt you. These may seem simplistic, because these aren’t new teachings. We hear them all the time throughout the Church year, heck, even more so throughout Church history. But again, having been inspired to put myself in a position where I don’t just breeze through the daily readings, but sit and think about what they mean for my life and present circumstances, they took on new meaning. I was forced to really look at forgiveness square in its face and contemplate how well I have forgiven in my life. I realized that I had fallen short. Badly. But some hurts were so deep, and buried so far in the back of my mind, that I didn’t know where to begin to try to start forgiving. I couldn’t pray about forgiving those who deeply hurt me; I just couldn’t bring myself to. But the Lord in His wisdom had already given me a place to start in the perfect prayer that He bestowed on us.
I began to make a conscious effort to think about the people who hurt me when I prayed the line from the Our Father about forgiveness. Just think about them. It was all I could do in the limited strength I had, and that became my “giving up”, as if to say “Father, I know what You’re asking of me and I acknowledge that I simply cannot on my own. So here. Take them. Take all of them as I pray…’…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive … Person X… Person Y… Person Z….’” Again, extremely simplistic. No great deal of penance. No fifty Hail Mary’s for each person. Just a conversation with me and the Lord in the quiet and torment of my own heart.
I have found that it has become a little easier for me to pray for those who have hurt me. It has become easier for me to talk about the hurts and the people involved as well, which is another step towards healing. Some days I still feel hurt and angry and bitter, but forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. Thankfully, while our Father requires us to forgive as we have been forgiven (and forgive if we are to have any hope of future forgiveness), He also understands that humans are weak and so He fills in the gaps for us, and He works in the cracks that we give Him. All it takes is a little “giving it up”.