In 1989 I was nineteen and heartbroken because of another betrayal by my “forever yours faithfully ” boyfriend. I listened to The Eagles cranked up LOUD in my muffler-less hand-me-down car. They knew a lot about heartbreak. And a little bit about forgiveness. Don Henley sang it this way:
“The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again I’ve been tryin’ to get down
To the heart of the matter but my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore”
“Heart Of The Matter” was written by Henley, Don/campbell, Michael W./souther, John David. Read more: Don Henley – Heart Of The Matter Lyrics | MetroLyrics
That part about all the things I thought I knew… I know what he’s talking about. At the age of 43 I’m learning them again. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s a process. It’s a decision that is made with or without the warm fuzzy feelings that can be a wonderful side dish to a heaping helping of forgiveness. God keeps showing me how multifaceted and ugly bitterness is. I don’t want any root of it in my life. I choose forgiveness. I choose to release the feelings of hurt and abandonment that even now…after all these years, can crop up as I write about things already buried. No, I’m not talking about the teenage angst of a boyfriend’s wanderings. I’m talking about the deepest ache of a spouse’s betrayal.
I keep thinking I’m okay as I journey back in time to painful places in order to write this memoir. And by God’s mercy and amazing grace, I am okay. My life is not what it was. God has abundantly redeemed the things I thought were lost. I have spent my time in the pits of despair and my dollars in the therapist’s chair. I’ve revealed, released, healed and moved forward. But when I write certain bits, I can still feel a jab from somewhere on the inside and once more I am faced with life’s perpetual decision: do I choose forgiveness or allow just a tiny bit of justified bitterness to have access to my soul?
Yesterday I crafted the following paragraph for Chapter 12 at a writer’s workshop hosted by environmentalist author Dale Slongwhite. As I prepared to read it aloud to a group of strangers-turned-friends-through-shared-writing, once again I was offered the menu. Once again, I chose forgiveness. What worked for Don Henley back in 1989 was actually set in place by our loving Heavenly Father before the first sin created the need for such an institution as forgiveness. Here are the instructions from the One who best knows that the fastest way to freedom is forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” Ephesians 4:31-32. NIV First we choose to unlock our hardened hearts. Then He gives us the grace to follow through with that choice. Here’s a glimpse into Chapter 12:
“Forgiveness is the sharpest tool for severing soul ties with someone from our past. It is bitterness that binds. Why have I so often seen it the other way around? My thoughts clarified as the round wall clock counted down our last hour of couple’s therapy. I heard the second hand ticking like a time bomb. Side by side we sat on the same grey sofa where week after week for the better part of a year Dr. Fox had witnessed the unraveling of our marriage. The dim lamp on the side table could not dispel the darkness hanging over us as we solemnly shared the memories and regrets of twelve married years. My mouth was dry and my eyes moist as I recounted a few of my favorite times with Jon and expressed my choice to forgive him for searing my heart with betrayal. As we hugged goodbye, I breathed in his familiar scent, a concoction of Acqua di Gio, sweat, and Marlboros. I released him. He released me. I was free.”
Thank you, Dale Slongwhite, for creating a space and a writing prompt that brought this memory out of the depths and put some meat on it. I loved what happened in your workshop yesterday and I left feeling energized and inspired to write! (If you are an aspiring writer of any age, you, too may be interested in Dale’s website and other workshops: https://writelines.net/. Dale’s most recent book, Mucked Up, is her passionate exploration of the lives of Lake Apopka farm workers as she tackles the personal side of environmental and political issues surrounding the growing and harvesting of much of Central Florida’s food. You can learn more about that project here: http://www.muckedup.net/.)
Thanks to those who are praying me through this journey. Birthing a memoir is both beautiful and exhausting. I pray the labor pains are worth it and that hearts are touched in a way that brings hope to those who feel alone in their suffering.