A Meditation on Forgiveness

Prison_Sophias_Pockets

Today’s post takes wisdom beyond walls from a metaphor to a reality. Antonio Turner is incarcerated within the Pennsylvania prison system. In this post, Antonio shares his ideas on pain, forgiveness and ultimately, redemption. Antonio have his permission to post this via written letter from inside prison. 

By: Antonio Turner

Quietly I calm my breathing. I relax, struggling to delve my mind into the most intrinsic core of my being. On a trek to forgive my mother remains the unconquerable hurdle on this journey. Why is it so difficult?

Although I have forgiven her from a cognitive standpoint, her rejection still lingers forming a cesspool in my mind: inside an already toxic and overflowing subconscious. Trying to contain the unrestrained resentment bubbling to the surface makes it hard to steady my mind on the difficult task ahead. The forgiveness process, for me, has not been a nourishing act from the heart. Yet since this betrayal and abandonment continue to be a taunting fact of my life, groveling about the matter will get me absolutely nothing!

So today as I ponder my life during a spell of meditation, the hold this unconquerable hurtle has on my heart is becoming a cancer. I sit paralyzed with fear – in my late forties – tormented by these feelings which have a direct effect on other women in my life.

As I secretly detest my mother for the immeasurable mental, physical and emotional pain she inflicted, my body tenses. I call God into my meditative space for help – to relax, to comfort and to guide.

I pray the combination of God and opening up my heart to Him will release the hurt carried every day. I so desire the fetters which have kept my mind in chains for the better part of three decades to be loosened – to release their grip on me. Since I was a little boy, I’ve prayed for this. Maybe I’m a dreamer, thinking, hoping this can happen.

            Blue stars, a gleam of hope

            Galaxies of complicated thought.

            Spheres of emotional entanglement

            A calloused heart full of rings and knots.

On bended knees, if I were only able to open my heart wide enough – seeking a depth of understanding more powerful than sight, I pray. I ask God to give me a comforting lens to examine my bitterness.

Maybe through the lens of forgiveness, I could’ve seen how she only acted out of her own pain – being a victim of domestic violence herself. She was an innocent floundering in her own torrent of pain. My meditation moves towards removing my selfishness, yet was it unreasonable for a child to want to be wrapped in the love of his mother? I don’t know. I’m just a dreamer.

 

My imagination has a tendency to run away from me. Through the prism of compassion can my prayers cause me to see my mother trying her very best? How can you shower affection when you are dealing with your own deep wounds, ones skewered and damaged by love itself?

By the grace of God, I’m now able to recognize her rejection actually had nothing to do with me. Her own woundedness prevented her from being able to love herself. With that emptiness piercing her soul, how could she truly love her own child?

Within my prayers, I ask, “How can I detest someone with so much visceral pain? With no self-love, wasn’t it impossible for her to love me?” I craved that love so much, which is why I pray for forgiveness now.

Guided by a beacon of light from my heavenly Father, I sit creating a sculpture with my words. I’m the one who needs to beg for forgiveness. As I fix my gaze on a starless sky – witnessing the clouds finally freeing the moon – suddenly the gates of my heart spring open. Could this be the first step to free my own hurt permanently?

As I end my prayer, I realize every present moment is an opportunity for a new beginning. And through the trials of suffering, the soul learns wisdom and compassion. My time in meditation has taught me it is possible to attain a newfound freedom from the realm of resentment. I don’t want to end this prayer, but know only through God can I release my mother from what she did to me. God provides a new forgiveness process much greater than my pain.

 

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Practicing Forgiveness

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. Today he shares the wisdom he has gained from practicing forgiveness.

Sun, Forgive

For me, lack of forgiveness is a spiritual virus, a monster that can destroyed us spiritually.I have also learned from my journey of faith that the more I practice forgiveness the more easier it has become for me. My practice of forgiveness is based in biblical scripture. The Bible often counsels against this lack of forgiveness.

Watch out that no bitterness take root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives –Hebrews 12:15

Furthermore, for me, the Bible’s counsel regarding lack of forgiveness is as relevant today as when it was written.

God’s Word says:

 Try to show as much compassion as Your Father does–Luke 6:36

and

Your attitude should be the kind that was shown by Jesus Christ–Philippians 2:5

It is true that some out of envy and jealousy do petty things that hurt me, but I have decided how to respond to those hurts: I will do all I can to make the person happy by showing love.

For me, forgiveness is a biblical command and it is always worth it to stand on my conviction without compromise. What happens to me is not nearly as important as what happens in me.

Yom Kippur, Forgiveness, and Race

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Barasch-Hagans who is a queer Jewish woman from St. Louis and a third year rabbi-in-training at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Sarah is also the founder of the Fargesn Media Project and one of the founders of the acclaimed Black Lives Matter Haggadah. Her post shares her perspective on Yom Kippur. It also sheds light on the relationships between atonement and forgiveness as well as looking at how race affects those concepts. You can find more of Sarah’s writings on her blog.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish “Day of Atonement” of fasting and soul searching that seems to come every autumn exactly when we need it. This past week, after a year in which I engaged intensely in challenging accepted ideologies around race and class and power that Ferguson had highlighted in my hometown of St. Louis, Yom Kippur again came right on time. This year, I finally realized how truly countercultural in America is the Jewish approach is to apologizing and forgiving.

American society tends to make apologizing optional for the powerful yet demands forgiveness from the powerless. We have never offered reparations for slavery yet we tout as exemplary the Black families in South Carolina who have forgiven Dylann Roof for mass murdering their relatives while they prayed in church–even though he has expressed no remorse for his evil actions. On the heels of this news, set amidst this year of the rebirth of the Black Civil Rights Movement, it has felt especially important to me clarify the theology of forgiveness in Judaism.

In Judaism, we are not required to forgive those that wrong us. Rather, responsibility rests with the one who has done wrong and is required to atone. Even if we are not forgiven the first time we apologize, we must still attempt to fulfill the commandment by offering atonement three times with sincerity. Especially in cases where we may have sinned repeatedly, demonstrating sincerity arguably requires that we perform actions to show we are on a path to truly changing the behavior we are apologizing for. Only then, only after we have sincerely attempted atonement with the person three times, are we are said to have atoned properly before God.

This theology has serious implications for dialogues on race in our country. I believe that Jewish theology is absolutely clear that the current role of White Americans–Jewish and non-Jewish–is to atone.

Judaism would not demand that individual Black Americans forgive White People or the institutions that uphold racism. If individual Black Americans find peace in forgiveness, that is their choice, but but that is not required. Jewish tradition does have much to say about short term restorative justice and and long term reconciliation and community building, but is a conversation for another day.

We must delay those conversations because they are too comforting. This is our time to avoid the impulse to deflect blame or to try to plan for the future. This moment, this exact season in the Jewish calendar, is when we atone without knowing whether we will ever reach a place of comfort.

This time is for difficult spiritual exercises by those of us who are implicated in sinful cycles. Each of us of all races and genders and class backgrounds and sexualities and ability levels must look honestly at ourselves and our place in oppression, interpersonal and communal, and seek teshuvah–usually translated as atonement but literally meaning “turning.” This is our time of turning towards a path of love and justice. This is our time to exercise faith in turning to a path we may not even be able to imagine. Because until we are absolutely honest about the path we are on, we will never be able to see, much less travel, along the path we seek.

Forgiving The World

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Blue ruffles; light blue just like the sea, dancing up and down so smoothly and so playfully just like the waves. I could still hear her voice; a girl in a ruffled blue skirt I met on a vaporetto in Venice on my way home. She was singing at the top of her lungs, laughing, giggling; covering the noise of the engine, all to blue girl italyherself. I kept on watching her, envying her a bit and I wondered from where all this could  possibly come from; all this unrestrained joy and happiness, this peacefulness, not worrying about a thing, and tuning out the world’s noise and living in your own song.

As I watched her carefree dancing, I found myself thinking about forgiveness. She gave me a reason today to start forgiving. To start forgiving the world I’ve been angry at for a long time now. The restlessness, the closed doors, the circle that gets tighter every day, how I got to be so lost and confused, all the thinking and worrying, all this must stop, must be forgiven and forgotten, because only forgiveness can make us lighter, freer, happier, like blue ruffles!

So it is okay; to have lost people, to have been hurt and disappointed. It is okay not to know who we are or what we want. It is okay to change our minds, to change course, to go back to where we started or to stop all together, take a break and think it all over again, because sometimes all that we need is simply to flow with life’s streams, without worrying where we will end up.

Blue ruffles taught me today that I should start forgiving: forgiving myself for giving up, for not trying harder, for losing hope, but more importantly I should start forgiving the world as it is—regardless of every hardship—finding on my way beautiful things to explore and beautiful people to know. In order to flow, to sing and dance around like blue ruffles, I must forgive.

I followed her after we got dropped off and she was still singing and dancing around while holding her granny’s hand (who was all the time attempting to control her to no avail thankfully) and I could not resist snapping a shot of her as I wanted to keep this memory for when I need a reason to hope, to forgive and to start afresh.

A Prayer For Forgiveness

ForgivenessAs we explore forgiveness, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets offer this prayer for all of us who are searching for forgiveness. This prayer is just a template everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your own prayer.   

Dear Spirit of Unconditional Love,

Let me feel forgiveness wash over me,
and let that feeling renew me.

Help me know the blessing that comes from letting go,
from forgiving those I am able to forgive.

Bless those that I cannot forgive,
and help them know the unconditional love that surrounds us all.

Let me feel supported by unconditional love,
and let that love allow me to forgive others and myself as much as possible.

Help me embody forgiveness in its best form,
and help me see forgiveness as part, but not all of your divine love.

Amen

Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us! 

Forgive Me My Wrong Impressions

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

You fear heaven, the source of spiritual peace; you fear nature, the haven of rest and tranquility; you fear the God of goodness and accuse him of anger, while he is full of love and mercy.–Khalil Gibran

“You fear heaven”, says Gibran, and I am taken back to the childhood bewilderment of heaven as a place of limited space for well behaved little boys and girls. If God is so big, why isn’t heaven bigger? If God loves us, why is there a time limit on his forgiveness? If God created the trees and mountains and forests, why would he choose a city of gold to live in for eternity?

“You fear nature,” says Gibran, and I look around my apartment where the windows are never open because the air is polluted and murky. I remember days of wandering free and hugging trees and now I can’t remember the last time I threw my arms around a tree trunk feeling it’s bark and life and comfort.

“You fear the God of goodness,” Gibran says, and I feel the walls come up around my heart when I try to pray. Maybe he is angry with me. Maybe he is disappointed. Maybe it will be better to slip through my life quietly and not bother him with requests when I haven’t held up my end of the bargain.

“He is full of love and mercy,” Gibran says.

He is full of love and mercy.

He is full of love and mercy.

He is full of love and mercy.

I let this mantra enter my heart.

And I know God, the fabric of the universe, this connecting force of creation, rebirth, and new beginnings, this intangible palm holding all pasts, presents, and futures of every living thing, is not to be feared, nor to be bargained with. All my questions, my insecurities, my doubts, come from human fallibility and not from an all-encompassing fountain of love and mercy.

Forgive me my wrong impressions, and help me to see the bigger picture. Help me to embrace heaven on earth, the beauty and healing power of nature, and the fact that your love and mercy is bigger than my fears. Amen.

Seeking Submissions: Forgiveness

Forgiveness, spiritual
This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness can be a tough topic, but a vital one for many spiritual journeys. We invite you to look deeply and tell us how forgiveness has shaped your relationship with your spirituality, with others, and with the world at large. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Who are you struggling to forgive right now? How has this affected your relationship with the divine and/or your spirituality?
  2. How did you learn to forgive?
  3. How do you define true forgiveness?
  4. Who forgives you? How?
  5. How do you ask for forgiveness?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team