The territory mined for teaching is usually pretty personal…some classes more than others. I sit with stuff like “well, what’s moving through me?” or “what truly is capturing my attention lately?” or “what’s happening in the communal field that is pressing?” It’s a gift, this vocation, never fails to engage me, never a paucity of material, the creative well feels bottomless, alive, teeming. This last Sunday was no different.
I was on the plane returning from visiting my ancient papa in San Antonio Wednesday and had just passed though a twenty minute stint of blood-curdling turbulence. I am not a good flier. This line from Gilead by Marilyn Robinson rose off the page, hit me hard: “It is worth living long enough to outlast whatever sense of grievance you may acquire.” Indeed. Long time readers know about this sense of grievance when it comes to my papa. If someone twenty years ago had told me that at this point in my life I would solely feel unconditional love for this man. And that he would end each and every conversation expressing his love for me. There are times it still feels surreal. It did not require relinquishing the past, but I did have to dance into a different relationship to it.
We all have a version of this in our lives. Maybe it is a connection that feels terribly incomplete or heavy and strained. Maybe it is a story or circumstance that suffers from an immutable lack of grace. Maybe there is someone in particular we feel we could never see our way clear to forgive. On Sunday I invited whatever it was for each of us into the room, gave us time to feel the intricate way it is interlaced through our bones, how it lodges entrenched in our hearts, even manifests in the quality of our breath.
David Whyte in Consolations says “Forgiveness is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.”
So I asked each of us to dedicate the first movement cycle to this reimagining. What would it be like to take this heartache as a partner and move with grace? But before I played the first track below, I told about my dad’s most treasured possession: a small white radio, the tuning dial a bit askew, constantly dialed to classical music. I sat hours at his bedside and he kept asking me to turn up the volume. He would be sound asleep with that little box perched on his chest, close to his heart, blasting one classic masterpiece after the next. I guess I come by my musical obsession honestly. This track was playing loud and clear one afternoon. You could be crazy right now, get up, feel your feet on the ground, the breath moving though you and waltz through the room with your own personal story.
David Whyte once more: “At the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait; in extending forgiveness to others now, we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough and generous enough to receive, at the very end, that absolution ourselves.”
To err is human…and I have so much of that under my belt.
To forgive is divine…inviting way more grudge-dropping for us all.