"You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day."
- The Light Between Oceans
I have this quote floating around in the pages of my planner, scribbled down sometime last month, when I was in the middle of reading The Light Between Oceans for book club. I wrote it down because I couldn't figure out if I agreed with it or not, and I figured eventually, it would become fodder for the blog, or the journal, or a conversation among friends.
A month later, and I am in the middle of deciding: forgive or resent? And the decision is not as easy as I thought it would be, because I think The Light Between Oceans is wrong. I think forgiveness is an over and over and over again decision. And I know what the author meant. I know forgiveness is far less painful to live with than a heart with its roots in bitterness and anger. Forgiveness is the right choice, but I do not believe it is an easy one.
I think forgiveness is a gate we approach again and again, and we constantly have to decide if we're going to walk through. We have to decide if we're going to do the hard work of forgiveness and enter into the next season, or if we're going to stay feet firmly planted right where we are, heartbroken and waiting for something to happen, waiting for another gate to open, another option to come our way.
For almost six years, I have written faithfully in this space about my 20s, about finding new jobs and beginning new adventures. I've written about quitting graduate school, about marrying my best friend, about traveling and cooking and friend-making and losing. And in the middle of all of those posts, I have written a lot about church. About belief and doubt. About continuing to choose to serve a place well, even when it is hard or feels like it doesn't matter.
I was confessing to my parents the other night that these have been hard seasons for me, spiritually-speaking. I went away to college at 18 and came home spiritually alive, and it's hard to maintain that kind of high for any extended period of time, mostly because my life doesn't exist in a bubble or a vacuum. I graduated college, and I now deal every day with people who believe very different things from me, and it can be hard. It has felt, often, like I am wandering in the spiritual desert I used to warn our teenagers about in Bible class.
But I don't think it has been all dry bones. I have learned so much about myself, about my limits, about my beliefs and my faith. I think my college years were special ones because, for whatever reason, I was allowed to expand my faith in a safe place, in a bubble I no longer live in. And I'm grateful for that bubble, but I see now it is good to be out of it, to test the waters and see if my faith can stand. (It hasn't always, and that's okay.)
I think it is good to be protected and safe for a while, to learn and ask questions among friends and people who love you. But life doesn't always look like that, and these spiritual deserts we wander deserve our attention, and our gratitude. And just like every desert has its oasis, I, too, have had highs in the middle of some lows. I have experienced victories among the defeats, and I'm confident I will look back on my 20s not with sadness, but with joy, because I used these years to become.
The desert at hand, though, requires forgiveness before it can be crossed, before I can become just a little bit more.
I have blogged about church hurt before, and at length, and I'm done with that for now, I think, because I simply can't talk about it anymore. I am tired and all dried up. I told Jordan this week that I have been so overwhelmed by it all, I haven't even been able to write about it. And that's hard, because normally, that's how I cope and endure.
So instead of writing about it in unimportant details, I'm choosing every morning these days to wake up and forgive. I do believe forgiveness brings more peace than bitterness, but I also believe forgiveness can be the harder choice. I don't think it's a one-time decision, and I don't think it's easy. It's daily and routine, and that makes it difficult.
I finished Glennon Melton's book Carry On, Warrior this week, and although I don't really love being referred to as a "Monkee" (apparently her pet name for her blog readers), I do love being told that I can do hard things.
And every morning, while I do yoga poses and breathe deep and say prayers, I remind myself that yes, forgiveness is hard, but I am more than capable of doing hard things.