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On the painful healing of forgiveness

July 29, 2008

Last weekend, I went to Ohio to represent FCNL at Wilmington Yearly Meeting. It was my first time at a yearly meeting and I found the whole experience wonderful. The people were incredibly welcoming and I learned a lot about Quaker theology, politics and history.

The theme of the yearly meeting was taken from John 5:6, “Do you want to be made well?” which was worked into nearly every aspect of the weekend. I came home reflecting on that quote and how it relates to the healing that comes from reconciliation.

As most of you probably know by now, on Sunday there was a shooting at a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, TN. I’m not UU, but I spent a lot of time at UU churches, conferences and camps as a teenager, which is how I met my partner of five years, Alex. Alex is incredibly active in the denomination and works in the UUA’s Washington Office of Advocacy. His parents attend a different UU church in Tennessee, and in the past few days we’ve both been struck by the many little personal connections we have to Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that we were previously unaware of.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of prayers by Walter Brueggemann. I have always found his style of prayer-poems particularly moving. I love how he’s willing to honestly look at anger and frustration with God without making excuses for it. In mourning for TVUUC, and with the theme of Wilmington Yearly Meeting still running around in my head, I decided to make my own small attempt at prayer-poem writing.

“Do you want to be made well?”

On days like these, your question seems to mock us.

We, who have been seeking your Wholeness all these years
In our homes
In our churches
In our selves

How could you even ask?

After all,
Fidelity to your vision
Seems to be what got us into this trouble in the first place
Seems to always be getting us into trouble

We would like a day off
A day of bereavement
From seeing the worth and dignity of every person

Yet, even now, when our children’s clothes are still stained with blood
Your words of comfort are mixed with the harsh commandment
Of reconciliation

And so we pray a reluctant litany
for them
And for us
And for them
And for us

Until there is no “them” but only an ever increasing number of “us”

“Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us”

And we curse
And we praise
The day you made us of one blood

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