I was going to save the idea of forgiveness until the end. I was going to write post after post about hope, joy, love, and then finally end with forgiveness. This was my plan, because it’s forgiveness that I’ve been having the hardest time with.

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A woman from church once told me, when I was small and easily wounded, that “Christ has forgiven so much; we have no right not to forgive others.”

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Forgiving in a relationship is not so hard for me (sometimes). A friend from my freshman year of college was adept at the plea for forgiveness: I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I don’t even know why I did it.” I was trained to forgive, time and time again.

It’s forgiving outside of a relationship that has become impossible. How do you forgive someone who hasn’t even asked for it? Who, if given the choice, would do things exactly the same way again.

This is where mercy and justice get messy.

Even Christ demands repentance – demands to be asked.

That stumped me for awhile.

Until I remembered: I am not Christ.

Jesus had no sins to be forgiven, only infinite forgiveness.

But all this philosophizing of forgiveness doesn’t change the heart overnight. It’s not magic. I prayed again, after months and months of not praying about it. I’d stopped praying because prayer was admitting I hadn’t forgotten, I hadn’t forgiven, and I was the only one who hadn’t moved on.

I prayed that my heart would be changed.

Yesterday, I found a bundle of pictures, taken in the cold spring of 2009, on the streets of Newburyport, the beach of Plum Island, the cliffs of Ocean Lawn. I thought I’d thrown everything out, but here was a bunch of photos, with a younger, softer me smiling back.

Instead of throwing them away immediately, I looked through each and every one. And I even smiled.

I was so different then.

After I’d looked at them, I did throw them out. They’d served their purpose.

And that night, I dreamed we were all in a car together, coming back from a wedding. I was wearing his socks, and he looked at me and said, “Hey, I think you still have my socks.”

And instead of being sad or missing something that wasn’t real, in the dream I laughed.

I laughed and took the socks off, gave them to him over the seat.

Maybe that doesn’t count as full forgiveness, but I’m happy with baby steps.

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