‘Time heals,’ people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression ‘time heals’ means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. ‘Time heals’ implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. ~ Henri Nouwen
When you look at the painting in the photograph today, what story do you see? What is the relationship between the young woman and the older man? They are both in tears, heads lowered, shoulders hunched. They are both experiencing some kind of distress. Has the young woman just acknowledged the hurt she’s caused her family by some of her actions and is asking her father for forgiveness? Has the older man come to beg forgiveness for his carelessness that led to the injury of the young woman’s child? I’m always looking for the story that lies under the surface.
I believe wholeheartedly in the value of living my life in community, inhabiting an interconnected network of relationships. I have to continually remind myself, though, that while community is good and valuable and necessary for my soul’s health, I shouldn’t be surprised when it’s really hard work. Inevitably I’m going to say or do something that wounds someone I care about. Inevitably someone I care about is going to say or do something that wounds me. Whether I’ve done the wounding or been the wounded one, forgiveness is the path my soul takes to return to wholeness. I love the distinction Henri Nouwen makes in this quote that forgetting the wounds and living as if nothing happened isn’t healing, but instead is ignoring reality. Forgiveness is also something that requires time and energy, so in the spirit of treating myself with gentleness, I choose to give myself permission to take the time I need to process through my hurt, trusting that God will guide me to that place where I can sincerely forgive.
This is Day 14 of 31 Days of Soul Tending and the focus is maintaining community and building relationships. I’m reminding myself that forgiveness is the path to wholeness for my soul, but it is not a race to be won by speed.