On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness

Rev. Aaron Payson

Penitent’s Prayer by Rev. Elizabeth Tarbox

It is an hour before sunrise. The waves keep coming, but each minute they make less progress than the minute before. As the tide goes out, the beach is exposed—a million pebbles just visible in the lifting of night, a periwinkle clinging to a rock, a horseshoe crab scrambling to catch the receding ocean—and I am exposed in all my hurts and frailties. My composure drains away with the tide, and the disheveled beach mirrors the ragged edges of my soul. The whole bay is my confessional, the breath of dawn my confessor.

I have been so consumed with my own hurts that I’ve forgotten to call a friend whose hurt is equal to my own. I put off doing those things that might bring healing to someone who is broken, or joy to someone who is sad, or compassion to someone who is at odds with the rhythm of life, because I cared more for my own loneliness. I refused the hand of one who reached out to me, clinging instead to old familiar ways. I chose to remain stuck inside a problem, rather than ask for help to solve it.

I pray that some benevolent spirit has listened to my heart’s despair and judged me not. At the edge of the clouds a rim of cream appears. Night creeps away with my guilt beneath its cloak. Dawn sprinkles absolution, the earth has kept its promise. Forgiveness is at hand.

Source: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/meditation/penitents-prayer

My colleague of blessed spirit, Elizabeth Tarbox muses eloquently on the subject of forgiveness, part of the meditations sent to inspire this month’s Touchstone Ministry theme.

During this time when our Christian friends and family are in the midst of their Lenten preparations for Easter, and our Jewish brothers and sisters look toward the time of Passover, I think this is a welcome reminder of the desire we all have to be understood as gloriously imperfect beings, especially by that and those that are closest to us, whether such be the deep spirit that sustains us or the family and friendships which embody companionship and love.

For me, the spirit of forgiveness is about recognizing our capacity to be that presence that reminds people of their integrity and humanity beyond their real or perceived failings.  It is about a willingness to recognize the potential beyond any given reaction for learning, growth, and love.

My prayer for you at this moment is that you too come to know that spirit and presence that has listened to [your] heart’s despair and judged [you] not.  When this happens, the the morning after the horrific night has passed over, and the morning when our grief meets the unbidden expectation of life continuing, we awaken to parts of ourselves we too often neglect, and honor our humanness, and the spirit of understanding that surrounds and sustains us all.