Forgiveness, or Why My Showers are as Long as an Episode of Lonesome Dove

Blog Forthcoming!
June 22, 2012
Song for the Nation
June 26, 2012

[Note to readers: This is fiction. Partially. Mostly. Anyway, just get the message and don’t think too much about the details, ok?]

Forgiveness. Like a delirious old grandmother giving you candy after you’ve broken her favorite tea pot. Like your best friend smacking you after sleeping with his boyfriend, then going out to brunch together and laughing about Glee. Like good things when old bad ones make sense. Like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.

I’ve heard the age-old banter, and I get it. I don’t ask for it, I just get it. I’m forgiven—there’s just not much I can do to earn it, or to deter it. It just is.

But that doesn’t mean it feels right. What about that stage of guilt and shame when you just don’t have what it takes to open yourself up to being forgiven? What do you say to that, Jesus? We can talk all day about how loving God is, how gracious God is, how dismissive of fault God is. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to listen.

Here’s my point, conjured in a recent shower that took forever because I felt especially dirty: some days, I can’t make myself believe it. Let’s put aside the “it doesn’t matter” clause of Christian theology, and focus on me. I count for something in this equation, right? So here I am:

I thought to myself, shampooing my hair for the 80th time, that it’s got to be about grace. Take grandma for example. I could take the candy and just ignore the fact that a family heirloom was shattered in pieces on the ground. I could even forget about cleaning it up. But that’s not what forgiveness is about, and it sure as hell doesn’t involve any grace.

Then there’s the sleeping with boyfriends thing. Do I feel bad about it? Sure. For a second. Then all is forgotten as I’m downing my Eggs Benedict and miming Kurt’s solo about boys and locker rooms.

Where is the disconnect?

The best that I can see, I’m not really good at doing something wrong and letting natural guilt do its work while simultaneously embracing forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about forgetting, nor is it about foregoing contrition or not making amends, or not rectifying, or not learning. But somehow in my well-washed head, it’s hard to say “God forgives you no matter what” while at the same time saying “I screwed up and I need to suffer for this.”

Perhaps it’s as simple as: I need to forgive myself. But that’s secondary anyway, isn’t it? I mean, if forgiveness comes in all forms from God, then surely if God forgives me, God also gives me the power to forgive myself. So why can’t I? And why do I have to parse this in the shower while my fingers get wrinkly?

As I stare at my inverted shampoo bottle—half tempted to break into that Glee solo, half tempted to dump my dilemma onto Herbal Essences—I consider an easy answer. What if—just maybe—I admitted that I didn’t have it in me? Forgiveness, that is. I can forgive others ’til the cows come home, but I can’t very well forgive myself. So I say, “Well dammit God, I just can’t do this. I’m sorry. It sucks. I should probably be able to. But since you are the mastermind of this forgiveness stuff, how about you just take care of it for me, huh? I’m late for work anyway.”

Magically, that tea pot becomes a point of laughter and grandma’s warming smile is all that matters. A friend serenading me with his yolk-covered fork elicits healing laughter. And the shampoo bottle, sick to death of my stupid boy problems, finally hears the water shut off.

I know I can’t make God forgive me. And perhaps I can’t even forgive myself. I think I’m afraid of forgetting, of not caring. I’m afraid the teapot will fade from memory, and some day I’ll carelessly shatter another one. Or I’ll sleep with another boy’s boy. Or I’ll make a mess of life and just walk away. I’m afraid I will stop caring.

“Is that what this is about?” I hear God chuckle through the fog of the steamy bathroom. “For the love of me, just go have a glass of wine and chill out. I made you and I’m not worried about it. Why should you be?”

Why should I be? I linger with the words as I get dressed, wander over to the kitchen, and open the refrigerator. It’s true—there’s a bottle of cold Chardonnay and it sounds like just what the Lord ordered. I take it as a sign and fill a $2 wine glass with $9 wine, slumping back in my papa san and turning on the TV. Finally, I let the thought leave me completely.

To hell with work—time to catch up some of the old episodes of Glee, don’t you think?

 

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