The Left Hand of Forgiveness

Places are a lot like people; you lean into the good parts and forgive the bad. This is a continual posture, not a sanction. I think of this as bowing down, not in worship, but in a choice to honor with grace. I am not interested in hierarchy, or teaching this place or person a lesson. I just want to break bread together, on neutral ground. Maybe this is what makes feasting so holy, you hover over a shared space to engage in a common need: food.

In order for this to work, you have to show up. Continually. Faithfully. And the meal is different each time you show up. There are different people, with different strengths and weaknesses, with different backgrounds, and different dreams. We change every day because we are alive, and living organisms are in a constant state of adaptability. This makes relationships uniquely messy, and also, I think, uniquely worthwhile. But, showing up gets tiresome, especially if it feels one sided.

Saba has been no different. Even amidst the peaceful rhythms we are falling into, there is the daily conscious effort to embrace the goodness of living here now, rather than wish for other things like a population of more than 2,000, one freaking drive-thru, handicap accessibility (I’m schleppin’ three little ones around, PLEASE offer an alternative to stairs!), maybe a movie theatre or flatter land. Countless times I have thought to myself, “I love Saba!” like when I’m at the park where the beautiful picture above was taken, or I’m looking at the ocean from my front porch drinking coffee. There are even shirts you can buy here with that exact sentiment. There is something magical about Saba, and just like any other place, there is something broken about it.

Living in a new land has exposed prejudices and attitudes of entitlement I did not even know I had; especially within the context of my family. I want to rail against my husband when he has to study instead of shoot the breeze with me, and I want to yell at my children when they exasperate me to no end. I feel entitled to easy relating and accessibility. But, each day I have the choice to show up in these relationships with fresh eyes of forgiveness. I have to let go of what I decided about my husband and children and this place yesterday, and let them write new stories on the pages of my heart today. Nobody is perfect, and no land is perfect, so why should I hold old indictments over their heads?

We live in a culture of inflexibility. “I have decided this thing, and nothing you can do will change my mind.” We are quick to write off relationships that don’t gel immediately, and at the slightest hint of opposition, we race to our turrets to light the cannons. How can growth happen in such a hostile environment? How can we learn if we approach each other with weapons already drawn?

Justified or not, forgiveness is an act of setting captives free, and we can be some of the most cantankerous jail keepers. Thriving relationships with people and places take slow work. Saying “I forgive you” does not liberate you from the bonds of prejudice. Faithfully showing up, day after day with a clean slate, does. I am not encouraging naivety, after all, we are to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and some relationships become disastrously complex. But I am encouraging humility. Be humble enough to offer second chances. And third. And fourth. And so on.

This is what makes grace so beautiful. It is a way of washing the weary feet of your fellow sojourners, and tilling the land where you are planted.