Reflection by The Rev. Dr. Trawin Malone
Frederick Buechner, writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian writes, “To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, ‘You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us.’”
Yes, there are times when we must take a break from a relationship—with a toxic person or system. Sometimes circumstances dictate that the break lasts a lifetime. However, how we stay connected then becomes extremely important. Do I allow my emotions or the emotions of the other determine the course of the relationship? Or can I stay connected by taking care of myself, leaving the door open for a time when we are both healthy enough to reconcile?
I wonder if Jesus had this in mind as he went to the desert to be tempted by the deceiver (Luke 4:1-13). The deceiver says to Jesus, “Stay connected to me; don’t trust yourself.” Jesus responds to each temptation from the foundation of his core values—the Word of God. Jesus refuses to be deceived. Yet, he stays connected: to God, to himself, and to the other.
Haven’t we all at one time or another in our lives been deceivers? Haven’t there been times when I have, either in the course of protecting my power, possessions or prestige—the three things with which the deceiver tempted Jesus—consciously or unconsciously been the deceiver of another human being?
In the Gospel, the deceiver runs away—quits the relationship. Wholeness with ourselves and with another person means that we don’t quit. Forgiveness means being made whole. Being whole personally. Being whole with the other person. Whatever form it takes, forgiveness brings wholeness to the relationship.
Forgiveness means remaining connected—connected in a way that transcends our emotions and reactivity. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Make us whole.
On this first Sunday in Lent, and for the rest of this Lenten season, perhaps our wholeness will come about as we move toward forgiving ourselves for self-deception and connecting once again with our true selves in God.
How does the temptation to protect our power, possessions, and prestige keep us from forgiving ourselves and others?
Who quits first? Who connects first?
Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.
In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.