Clean(ish) slate

This is the sixteenth day of the 2020 Love Blog Challenge
hosted by the lovely BelleBrita
Prompt for 2/24: Forgiveness

Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.

Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace

One part of this complex quote keeps crowding out the other words:

wipes the slate clean,
not spotless to be sure,
but clean enough for another day’s chalking.

Buechner links forgiveness to sleep and night and darkness making things new… almost. When it comes to wiping the slate clean, forgiveness is just like any other area of life. It’s complicated.

Both King Lear and Don Quixote de la Mancha* appealed to man’s goodness and, in their own ways, suggested that we forgive and forget. And we often hear that today – although it is usually repeated as advice to someone else, rather than as a personal reminder.

But a better way is to be honest about history, because if we forget the past, we minimizes the importance of memories, a critical part of true forgiveness and reconciliation.

Desmond Tutu said,

Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.

No Future Without Forgiveness

Yes, remembering the hurt or betrayal seems counterproductive to full and honest forgiveness. But think about it. When we grant forgiveness for a break in trust, it is really no different than helping a close friend work through any kind of sin or regret.

None of us is a perfect friend. We are usually quite willing to overlook the past and present indiscretions and mistakes of those closest to us because we love them and know they are no better – or worse – than we are. We grant loving grace with wild abandon when they tell us about “losing it” at work or not telling a loved one about a rather reckless purchase or even the long-ago affair that died early, before it ruined everything.

Forgiving a friend for what may come between us is no different. It’s not that we don’t remember or even perhaps feel the past sting of harsh words – but we grant grace because we are, in truth, no better.

And because we love them.

This isn’t easy. What if:

  • you want to tell your friend a secret – but you can’t be sure it will be handled with care?
  • you find out from a trusted source that your friend didn’t stand up for you in front of others?
  • your friend belittles or speaks harsh or demeaning words about something important to you?

How do you infuse the beauty of forgiveness into a world of imperfections and broken trusts? How do you reconcile the realities and fragility of human friendships with God’s perfect model of forgiving all who ask?

As I said, my lovelies, it’s complicated.

Buechner’s words imply the daily slate will not be spotless. It will have the residue of yesterday’s events – and often those of the days before.

But the beauty of forgiveness makes that soft haze of yesterday melt into the past and gives us the freedom to love with abandon today and tomorrow.

Wherever people love each other and are true to each other and take risks for each other, God is with them and for them and they are doing God’s will.

Frederick Buechner, May 10, 2017

Forgiveness – worth a risk or two for the sake of love, don’t you agree?


*page 238

I also found this essay really helpful: Is it Biblical to Forgive and Forget?

Image by Юлия Верташ from Pixabay

8 comments

  1. It’s funny you start with the idea of forgiveness as sleep. I must be the only person who actually benefits from sleeping over arguments instead of trying to resolve them before bed despite the professional advices always being in favour of resolving. It makes sure I don’t drag them on out of the sleep equivalent of hanger and in most cases I forget why I was angry in the first place by so many hours afterwards.

    I also like the idea that we’re like a chalkboard and so even a clean slate isn’t like a factory reboot, some things we forgive will leave a mark and that’s not a fault on our part in our forgiveness…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Alessia (Sorry for such a late response.) Yeah – sometimes the professionals don’t get it right at all. Especially when it’s really just me that needs to work things out. And “a clean slate isn’t a factory reboot” – GREAT analogy! I love your comments, every one…xoxox

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  2. I really love the quotes you’ve pulled together to discuss forgiveness. I can forgive someone for their transgressions against me, even if they haven’t truly repented. But that lack of repentance means I need to be careful in how I interact with that person going forward, because they haven’t shown a willingness to do better.

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    1. Thanks, Brita. Oh, wow, a big “yes” to the being careful. (Sorry I’m so late in replying.) There is no expectation that I won’t protect myself from being hurt again – especially when someone has intentionally NOT repented. Yet some people are surprised that my forgiveness plus their continued hurtful behavior will result in a changed relationship. Thanks for adding that… wise words indeed…xoxox

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  3. I really like all the quotes you’ve used in this post, but especially the one from Desmond Tutu. Forgiving is not forgetting. In fact, when you think about it. Forgiveness means more when you don’t forget. When you remember the hurt – maybe you even think about it very often – but you forgive anyway! That’s powerful!

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  4. For me, it’s a process. Sometimes it works and other times, when I am feeling insecure, not so much. However, when I can get myself to a place and ask God for His help and wisdom, I start to feel understanding and compassion for others. I see that we’re all just people, trying to do our best. Mostly, I see His love being poured down on me and bitterness and hurt are replaced with peace

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    1. Thanks, Pat. (Sorry for the late reply.) “We’re all just people, trying to do our best.” Yes we are. And yes, it is a process – something that we won’t always get right. Love you xoxox

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