'Tis the Season to Forgive

No sooner than the Tupperware lids sealed the last of the leftover turkey and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving day, my world filled up with Christmas. Photos of Christmas trees being cut down, put up, and decorated on every social media feed I have. Christmas movie marathons running on TV--I even had one myself with some friends on Friday night (the Home Alone movies, for the record). 

The season is here, whatever that means to you. The season to celebrate Jesus, the season for family, the season of lights, the season of sales, the season of built-in excuses to eat cookies nonstop.

For me, the holidays are about all of the above, and about gratitude, good food, days off, college football, pro football, time for books, time to write, time to binge on Netflix, time to rest...but they're also a time I'm forced to forgive again.

I'd say 99% of the time, I'm good with forgiveness. I'm good with everybody in my life. Accounts have been settled, debts have been paid, and the balance reads zero. But there's that pesky one percent.

I read somewhere that grief comes in waves--long after the immediate turmoil of a tragedy has passed, long after the water has calmed, we still experience little waves, even ripples, of grief. I think the need to forgive is the same--depending on the extent of the damage, we'll still face rogue waves of bitterness or pain long after we first decide to forgive someone.

That's what the holidays can do for me--they bring back a little wave. It's a reminder of what's been taken from me. Like an old soccer injury that makes your knee scream every once in a while, like your joints creaking in the cold winter air to remind you of the surgeries and rehab from years ago, there's an ache I feel every once in a while. Sometimes it's dull, and sometimes it's acute. And amid all of the good of this season--the friends and family and community who drown me in love, the sparkling lights, the nostalgic songs--I'm reminded I have to choose to forgive.

When asked about forgiveness, Jesus said we're supposed to forgive seventy-times-seven. To date, I've probably forgiven this person seven-hundred times, but I have to do it yet again.

I have to choose again to forgive.

I have to choose again to let it go.

I have to choose again to be okay with no apology, no neat-and-tidy acknowledgment of wrongdoing, no Full House-style reconciliation with piano playing in the background at the end of the episode.

I have to choose again to remember there's no way to get back those years of my life.

I have to choose again to not make that person into a monster, to see their humanity instead.

I have to choose again to wish them a healthy and good life, to hope the best for them.

This is what forgiveness requires us to do: to choose again, and again, and again to let go. As many times as it takes, for as long as the waves keep coming. So for me, this holiday season, I'm going to watch Elf. I'm going to put up lights. I'm going to bite my tongue and pray for patience every time I have to go to a store and find a parking spot. I'm going to sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" in hopes that the snow comes. I'm going to eat, drink, and be merry.

And I'm going to forgive.