Roughly ten years and several eons ago, I read in Matthew that we are required to forgive “even seven times seventy times”. Some quick mental arithmetic and I realised that meant we’re expected to forgive four hundred and ninety times. That’s a sizable number, especially when it’s relating to someone who has hurt or offended you. At the time, I was trying to come to terms with abandonment by not one but three fathers in my life, and the effort was exactly like trying to swim butterfly stroke through custard. In short, it wasn’t pretty, it was messy, and obviously wasn’t working.
Then, I read the following from Jeanne Ray’s ‘Eat Cake’:
The truth of the matter is that I didn’t bear my father any particular ill will. I had for a short time when I was young. I thought he was a terrible man. But as I got older it occurred to me that just because someone isn’t cut out to be a husband or a father doesn’t make him terrible, only terribly disappointing. (p. 54)
In the fey, curious workings of my brain, I could somehow accept the grief and hurt my fathers had caused by changing my definitions. My Dads weren’t terrible, just (simply, awfully) terribly disappointing. It was much easier to forgive them for being so disappointing and then step over the hurdle which had (just one page earlier) seemed as impossible and painful as burrowing through the planet using my head as a shovel. Suddenly I could – and did – forgive them, and moved on.
Fast forward ten years. Ten years of life, and friends, and no-longer-friends, family spats and silences, ten years of working out just what my mother-in-law meant during the last conversation, practicing and failing patience, and thinking that forgiving people was mostly a matter of rearranging words to make the taste less awful. Ha! I thought. This forgiveness thing is EASY!
Then my husband left my sons and me. For the first counsellor in my sons’ Primary.