A year before my father died, I accompanied my parents to an event which involved audience participation, including rising for “The Star Spangled Banner.” Sometimes we read aloud and sang. Dad, who had a rich, baritone voice, sang a little, but mostly he was content to be still and, with his artist’s eye, watch the crowd and performers, rather than participate himself. He already understood his own physical weakness and engaged with others when and as he could.
At one point, when everyone rose and Dad remained seated, a woman behind me hissed, “That man is supposed to stand up.” I couldn’t hear her companion’s reply, if there was any. Several times she recited this litany, even after I turned once to glance at her. I felt anger rise in my belly, though I held my tongue.
As the show concluded, Dad slumped forward. I knew we needed to exit quickly. I removed his cane from beneath the seat and grabbed my purse. As the audience gave its ovation, Dad leaned on me and steadied himself on his cane. We were approaching the exit, when I heard a faint, “Oh, dear. Oh, my.” Then the woman called, “Excuse me. Excuse me.”
I turned to her, elegantly dressed in black and white taffeta, rich, dark hair perfectly coiffed. Before Dad could speak, she extended her hand and said, “Please forgive me. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you were sick.”
When I looked at her face, I saw tears in her eyes.
Dad turned, patted her hand, and said, “It’s all right, Madame. I forgive you.”
“Thank you,” she said, as if we’d handed her thousands of dollars. Then she asked whether we needed help getting to the car and held the door for us as we exited.
In that moment, and in so many since, I’m grateful for the text of “The Lord Prayer” which translates:
Forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.
Whenever, and however, we say this, we’re invited to know: Forgiveness — and our willingness to forgive — help us release blame and liberate ourselves, so resentment and upset can’t constrain us. Forgiveness especially frees us when we or others, intentionally or unintentionally, overstep our bounds, or tread into territory which is neither ours to traverse nor ours to police.
As spiritual beings, especially as we’re finding our own way, we sometimes believe that we “should” advise others on their journeys, hold them accountable to our standards, point them in our direction, or admonish them for their “failings.”
Yet, when we remember that we’re all God’s divine creations, we also realize that all paths can lead to God, to a greater sense of joy, security, peace, health, wealth and all else we seek for fulfillment and enlightenment. Along the way we also discover that we’re unconditionally loved, and in God’s infinite compassion and ever-abiding grace, all our trespasses are forgiven, too.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.