“You know you have to forgive them,” he says, one arm wrapped around the top of the highback chair, the other on the table.
We’ve long since finished our meal, but we’ve not moved from our places here. Water rings the surface of the table and I push my cup back and forth in the ring closest to me. I say nothing, but I nod my head in a very small way. My mind fires off quiet thoughts and for once, I hold my tongue and swallow my words.
The children swarm about us, sugar from cupcakes still covering their faces. The baby licks frosting from her fingers as the last bite crumbles in her hands and she’s smiling, her chipped tooth showing through red velvet.
Time stops for me and I capture the moment, my memory clinging to each frame. I’m recording a mental slide show to replay long after they’re gone.
And I’ll replay this time, over and over again in the days to come.
It’s late, but I retreat to the kitchen to brew coffee and set dishes in the sink. The air in the next room is choking me and my head is pounding and it’s all I can do to measure beans and pour water.
I buy minutes while I gather creamer and sweeteners, napkins and spoons. I carry mugs to the dining room, sloshing coffee all over my hand. My skin burns and I barely feel it.
I feel oddly absent and very much present and not like myself at all.
The hands on the clock move faster and faster and I’m dizzy with the series of messages coming from the end of the table. I’m quiet still, but my other half is spilling his heart all over his side of the room and so I hide within my very skin, escaping all the words that I can’t grasp and thinking on all the words that I must.
What does he mean? I have forgiven them. I’ve turned the corner here and dug in my heels and made the decision to stay. I don’t even cry anymore. I serve. I am just now finding my place here, my sweet spot.
I’m past forgiveness.
Two months past forgiveness, to be exact.
The kids chase one another through our space and it’s now way past the bedtime hour. Sugar and excitement course through their little bodies and their feet are pure filthy from a day of being outside barefoot, but I call for bedtime anyway.
They dress in pajamas without brushing their teeth and I cringe at the thought of the cupcake crumbs still in their teeth. But I need them in the bed.
Out of sight and out of mind.
And it’s there, at the foot of the stairs, with Skeeter jumping around his cage and my children half-way in the bed, that I hear those words again and I know why he said them to me.
He said those words because I haven’t forgiven them.
I’ve chosen to stay in proximity, but have no community.
I’ve shared meals, but not shared my table.
I’ve spoken words, but not encouraged or loved or blessed or honored.
I’ve opened my hands to serve, but walled up my heart to have no feelings.
And to have no feelings, must mean that I have forgiven.
For nearly 48 hours, I’ve been turning all of this over in my head…replaying the moments in slow motion, sifting words, letting them seep into my hurt parts, giving God space to illuminate truth.
And the truth is, it’s hard to forgive someone, to keep reaching out a hand of blessing, a word of encouragement, an act of service done in love.
It’s hard to tear down the walls of a heart and invite others back in, to give more than a second chance, to keep going back into relationship because community is worth it.
Am I there yet?
No, I don’t think so.
But this morning, that barrier around my heart is less like a wall and more like a pretty little hedge…
With a gate.