Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years for wanting the same rights for black South Africans as whites. When he was released and became president, he invited the prison guards to his inauguration and had them sit in the front row. Nelson knew that reconciliation and forgiveness was the way forward in an uncertain future.
As a married man, forgiveness to has been one of the keys of keeping my relationship with my wife together. There have been many times when we have fought with one another and listened to one another about hurts and a lack of awareness or will. There have been countless occasions where I or my wife have had tear filled eyes. And the words “I am sorry” are spoken.
Being married for more than 15 years now has created a part of me that thinks my wife does not love me. She does not match up to my own idea of what she should be. How should she act. How she should look. How she should behave. How things are now are not how things were those many years ago. Family pressures from caring for our children and caring for my very frail mother seems to amplifier this lack of love. Where we struggle to provide each other with quality time together. To discover and grow together.
Our conversation has become mostly functional. I sometimes ponder “why does not our relationship focus on loving and caring for each other?” Instead it is focused outwards on a crying 7 year old who refuses to get out of bed to refill his own water bottle, or a mother who rings wanting to meet her needs of taking her to the doctor, skin specialist, blood test, psychologist, podiatrist and do her shopping. We are not available to simply listen to each other over a cup of tea, because these demands and more are due.
Anthony de Mello says we must find a new way to love. Anthony quotes Jesus, “if you do not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). He says that we must let go of our pre-conceived ideas of how they should love us. Anthony says that these are illusions. How our minds fabricate how things should be. True growth requires change. If we truly love the other, as the other, we must let go. To be non-attached. To be willing to risk everything for the one we love. This sound very much like what Jesus did on the cross.
We must discover a love that only God can give. Thus, forgiveness, is the doorway to this love. Because we become like children. Free enough to embrace a love greater than what we think about or even be. This is not easy.