Finding love and forgiveness

pexels-photo-334978.jpeg“You have never been in love” Antonia Lipari Mire

Words spoken by my late grandmother as we sat on her front porch swing. I was in my early twenties. I was a baby in my career, just graduated college, on my own in a small town in Arkansas. I was cocky, independent and lacked wisdom. My grandmother lived about 45 minutes away from where I lived after graduating college. I often would pay her a visit on the weekends. One conversation I remember clearly was talking to her with a very self centered attitude about marriage. I remember telling my grandmother that I was glad I had a college education so that I, unlike my aunts, would not have to put up with marital issues due to lack of the ability to support myself. My grandmother put me in my place in a matter of seconds. She looked at me and told me, “you have never been in love”.

Later I realized how much that conversation really impacted me. As I grew wiser and settled into my own marriage, I recognized what my grandmother meant. My grandmother was a model of love, love to her family and love to my grandfather. My grandparents had separated for as long as I could remember. My grandfather from what limited knowledge I had of him was not a very kind person to my grandmother. He appeared to be very lonely and didn’t have great relationships with his kids. When he was dying of cancer, 20+ years after they separated, my grandmother with the loving heart she had, moved in with him to take care of my grandfather until he passed away.

I remembered that story from my college days, yet the love and forgiveness didn’t sink in until after my grandmother had told me “I had never been in love” and after I was married. Both of those memories of my grandmother merged and gave me a lot of food for thought as I struggled in my own marriage and a divorce. The example my grandmother showed me was an extraordinary example of love and forgiveness. My grandmother had an immense capacity to love and she also had a great ability to forgive. Both of these were gifts that came to fruition when she took care of my dying grandfather, a man that did not treat her with love and respect.

It’s been a little over 2 years since my grandmother’s passing.  As I think of this memory of her,  my heart sings with joy because of the impact her words and example of compassion has had on me.  I truly believe as God has worked in my own heart, the example of my grandmother is a gift that has helped me to love and forgive even when it has not been reciprocated.

How many times should you forgive your brother or sister? Jesus tells us that we should forgive seventy times seven.  I’m sure he really meant infinitely.  St Paul also tells us in Colossians 3:12-14, that we should put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.  If one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”  Forgiveness is very difficult when you have so much pain buried with in you.  It is important to lift that pain to God and trust he will fill your heart with love to pave a path for forgiveness and healing in your heart.  In order to forgive you have to love.

 Are you practicing your capacity of love and forgiveness, especially to the one person who has inflicted the greatest pain upon you?

Forgiveness

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How do we forgive?  Is there a magic formula to forgiveness?  Why is it harder to forgive sometimes than others?  Is there a time factor in this magic formula?

I was asked not too long ago, how did I forgive a person in my life who brought so much pain and suffering.  My first inclination was, “Mmm, I’m not quite sure.  It just happened some how.”  I’ve had some time to reflect on it a bit recently.

The more I ask myself about forgiveness, I can only come to one conclusion – LOVE.  It’s love in 2 dimensions.  The first dimension of this love is the love that God poured out on the cross, His Divine Mercy.  The second is accepting that love and mercy that He freely gives us, knowing that we don’t deserve it but He still offers it.  I think once you have knowledge of that love and receive it in it’s entirety, you can offer that love and mercy to anyone through forgiveness.  It doesn’t remove the event or circumstance but it does offer healing of the wound(s).  Since we are not perfect, it may take longer and be harder in different circumstances.  But as long as we have knowledge of God’s love and mercy and accept it, forgiveness is possible in any circumstance.

In the book, “Unbound”, the author talks about the parable where the king cancels the servants debt after he begs him to be merciful.  Later the servant punishes another servant who owes him a debt for not being able to pay it, instead of showing mercy as the king showed him.  What is brought to light by Jesus through this parable is that for us to be merciful to others, to forgive others, we must first receive that mercy.  In the parable, the first servant truly did not receive that mercy and was not able to provide mercy to the other servant who owed him money.

In order to receive the mercy God gives us, we must receive His love, the love He offered us through salvation on the cross.  This has to come through a relationship with God, through Christ.  If we don’t have a relationship with Him, receiving this love and mercy is impossible.  It’s one thing to know Him, to read the Bible and walk the walk but to have an intimate relationship is a different level that goes deeper within our hearts.  It opens our hearts to receive and pour out love.  That’s how we forgive others.