Forgiving & A Beach’s Sand

My friend, Eden Vigil Director Lowell Bliss, plied his Facebook eloquence again and posted this meditation on forgiveness. I publish it here with his permission.

lowell bliss

Lowell Bliss 

I was walking with the dog on Nickel Beach this morning and praying about a yearlong project that I feel called to as a spiritual athlete, namely not to enter the 2020 election/prophetic cycle without being as “fully forgiven up” as possible, by which I mean Ronald Rolheiser’s aspiration: “I forgive others for hurting me, I forgive myself for sinning, I forgive life for not being fair, and I forgive God for not rescuing me.”

At one point on my walk, I felt I was being given an image in the surf at my feet. We have no control over the waves that wash up on us and over us. Today the air was cold and the wind from the south was kicked up and Lake Erie was crashing higher than normal on southern Ontario. My late mom was famous for her platitudes and here is one of them: “All the water in all the oceans can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside.” I think that applies to boats, but I don’t think it applies to human beings. We are created to be permeable. We aren’t like rock cliffs on the coast; we are like sand on the beach. If we are not permeable to hatred, fear, and hurt, neither would we be permeable to love and kindness. So I don’t think we have as much control over what gets inside us at any given moment. Neither, in truth, do we have as much control over forgiving others as we may think. We of course have some, perhaps even much. Forgiveness engages our wills, and can even begin there if all else fails. “I forgive; help my unforgiveness” seems like an appropriate prayer, but my point is that if forgiving others was totally under my control, then I wouldn’t have to pray that prayer repeatedly over the span of weeks and months or the entirety of 2019.

If we are permeable on the way in, then we are also permeable on the way out. This was the image of the surf on the sand on the beach. Each wave came in and inundated the sand, turned that patch of beach a slightly darker color. When the wave receded again–as they always do, just as the Great Lakes return to a regular calm in anticipation of their final and eternal placidity–you could watch the water seep out of the sand as well. Soon no movement at all was perceptible, but the color of the sand was turning a lighter shade. I accepted it as evidence, easily deducible, that water was seeping out.

Our lives in Christ Jesus, like all beaches, are built on a slant. We are not built high enough above the shore to prevent the waves reaching us, but we are built with enough slope that the water will eventually seep downhill again and out to sea. We can trust this. We can give it time. The one thing however we do have control over, it seems to me, is whether we build any sandcastle fortress at the edge of the water, useless for keeping new waves at bay, but tragically effective at trapping water behind it.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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