“The work of forgiveness is so challenging—the actual work of it. The naming, grieving, empathizing, releasing. It’s like a death of what we wanted, what we expected, what we’d hoped for, what we deserved and didn’t receive. We don’t get to control other people or outcomes. I am as devastated about this as you.”
—Jen Hatmaker, in Of Mess and Moxie
All of us have holes in our hearts where arrows have landed. One of my arrows landed five years ago when a friend—who used to refer to us as sisters—ghosted me. That doesn’t mean that we lost touch or she was too busy to respond to my texts and calls and emails; it means that time revealed her to have made an ongoing choice, however passive, to end our relationship with neither warning nor explanation.
Every relationship is an ongoing story that unfolds between people, and yet it took me years to stop trying to will a new chapter of this relationship into existence. Where there was once a loving relationship, there's now an echo and an ache. Where a stinging question once haunted me—Why?—a new question emerged: What shall I do with this pain?
The first question is unanswerable. The second one prodded me into connection, where healing begins. I talked over my pain with both Spirit and my therapist (those were very different conversations) and—once I let go of shame—I received a healing balm in learning how many of my friends have also been ghosted.
I thought I was done ("done"! as if our spiritual journeys are ever complete) until a worship experience bestowed me with grace that I hadn't even known I'd needed. Softened by music and prayer and the ministry of my colleagues, I found myself with the capacity to pray for the “sister” who abruptly left my life. That's more free than I'd ever imagined getting...but that's what grace does: it's a spiritual ladder amid all of life's chutes.
Ministers like to say that we go to church because others are in need of us. We’re a people of relationship and promise; trust and accountability (and it's why you can't be a UU in isolation). Sometimes I need to receive; to rest in a power greater than myself: more forgiving, more compassionate, more soothing than any force that lives inside of me. What a wondrous gift that we both summon and create that power in community: lifting one another into wholeness through giving and receiving.
For things we may never understand, Compassionate One, may your grace transform our despairing questions into curiosity about how connection, agency, and grace conspire to heal us and free us.