I love summer showers. There’s nothing like that energy in the air as a rainstorm blows in. The only thing I like better is when the storm hits, and the rain starts pouring. I live for days like that during these hot summers; I wrote on social media that I was “in my element” when I got to spend most of the work day outside, experiencing that refreshing rain.
What I really don’t like is when the rain never comes.
The air gets heavy and stifling. The clouds hang ominously overhead, sometimes dark and rumbling threats, but won’t yield any rain. I’d be sweating and dehydrated, frustrated to no end; it feels like rain, smells like rain, but there’s no rain. All I see instead is a heavy shadow that blocks out the sun’s light, and makes it even harder to breathe for one with asthma. “Just rain already!” I’d want to yell at the clouds.
This is the picture I had in my head as I wrote that study on hatred, though poison also came to mind. It’s actually, I realized, was the best way I can understand these things like hatred, anger, and letting go. Hatred isn’t always angry, just as a storm isn’t always thunder and lightning (something I also fear, along with the threat of tornadoes). Sometimes it just hangs there, blocking out any peace, happiness, or love from your heart.
I can see it now, against what feels like all odds: the true nature of forgiveness is when the cool rain finally comes down after that long, miserable wait in hot humidity.
This morning, as I looked over my study on hatred, I suddenly had the idea to do something I never, ever thought to do: I sat down with my coffee, and wrote an email to my ex-roommate. For a little context, I believe I mentioned how we haven’t spoken since I (very bitterly) moved out after things went very wrong between us. On my part, I’ll admit I was waiting for an apology. It took a while for me to admit that there were things I did that broke our friendship; it wasn’t all her fault, like I wanted to believe. Then, when I got to that point, I still wanted her to apologize first, to make it easier for me to make amends for my share of the mess.
We weren’t the best roommates for each other (to say the least), but we were good friends. I don’t know if we’ll be friends again, nor do I think I want that at this point. I did want to stop hating her though, in that single, spontaneous moment. Out of all the people I hate, she’s probably the easiest for me to forgive. Sure enough, the words just flowed naturally into the email I sent. I told her that I was sorry for everything I did that hurt her or rubbed her the wrong way, sorry for my part in what went wrong between us. I tried to get down as many individual offenses as I could, though apologized for anything I can’t remember, or wasn’t aware of that was harmful in some way. I got a little misty-eyed as I wrote, my chest tightening up a bit. It didn’t hurt as much as it would when I contemplated forgiveness in the past though, and not nearly as much as when I’d stew over all the ways she wronged me.
She doesn’t like notes, so I’m not sure how she’s going to take it; a written message feels much safer for me, always has. I didn’t, don’t, expect any kind of apology or response from her. In that (miraculous?) moment, I seem to have also lost any desire for either. There’s a part of me that actually dreads getting a reply, but that’s separate problem more to do with my abuse than her. Speaking simply, I don’t have this need for her to be sorry to forgive her. Not anymore.
I had the thought to do this for a couple others I still hate, my old spiritual director maybe…but paused. I already have one possible reply to worry about; not sure if I could handle another. What helped me forgive my ex-roommate, too, was the knowledge that I was probably equally at fault; that’s less the case, sometimes not at all the case, for these others I hate. It also might be counterintuitive to what I was…am trying to do. I’d dreamed for years of the chance to give those others I hate a piece of my mind, him included; I’d gotten to the point where I’d hoped he’d want to say sorry just so I can throw it back in his face. There’s also the fear, separate from that “abuse fear”, that I might be met with more cruelty, as my attempts in the past at something like this often resulted in harsh rejection. It might be too risky, for my sake as well as theirs, to take the same approach for forgiveness.
It could be that I should just have goodwill for him, for all of them, to counter all this ill will I have.
I could hope, as I had in the past, that they’d feel so rotten about what they did that they’d change for the better. Maybe a good ol’ dousing of cold water to clear their heads, wash away whatever’s hiding the truth from them. That’s up to God, and to them, I realize. As much as I’d like to, especially on those muggy days, I can’t make it rain. Regardless of what either God or I may want, they can still choose to seek shelter under their denial, egocentricity, victim-mentality, or whatever their deal is. Doesn’t really matter to me either way. Not in this respect. They can go ahead and sit in their nastiness.
It seems so silly now… I’d sulk right there with them, stewing in sweat, waiting for them to apologize. In doing so, I was missing out on all this nice rain. I was watching, parched, as condensation rolled off a cold glass of lemonade, waiting for them to get it for me. I’d thought of all the mean things (as well as not-so-mean things) I could do to make them get it for me, make them be sorry. But I can’t. I can’t make them do anything, let alone be sorry. God, omnipotent as He is, even He can’t make them; it’d be going against His very nature. He can only invite, and hope we take it.
Right now, He’s asking me to dance. It’s finally raining.