Tuesday, February 4, 2020


"Friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses."

A couple weeks ago I went on a retreat called “A Weekend with the Poet David Whyte.” I love David Whyte’s poetry and not only was this a chance to see and hear him read and talk about it, but it was also in a beautiful setting, Asilomar, which is in Monterey Bay. It was a wonderful weekend.

I picked up a book he wrote that contained 52 words with his reflections on them. One of the words was “friendship.” I keep thinking about what he wrote about friendship, in particular that "friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses." It pleases me to hear "forgiveness" made into a noun like that. Each forgiveness (or less poetically, each act of forgiveness) is like a stone of a path, multiple forgivenesses creating a beautiful path of friendship.

Multiple forgivenesses. Isn’t that the truth? How many times in my relationships have I needed forgiveness! I can’t even count and I’m sure I barely remember all my mess-ups. He also wrote, “All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.” As in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Mutual. I need to both be forgiven and forgive.

I started thinking about my friendships, about different times where I’ve needed mercy and where I’ve needed to practice mercy. Then I thought about Jesus being my friend. Wait, where is the mutual forgiveness there? Of course, Jesus forgives me for the many times I blow it, but I don’t have to forgive Jesus, right? He doesn’t do anything to me I have to forgive, he’s blameless, perfect, without sin.

I have some thoughts on this. I do not know if they are theologically sound. It occurred to me, though, that we do have to “forgive” -- in a manner of speaking -- Jesus for what we expect from him. It’s not a case of forgiving Jesus for having wronged us, as he does for us, and we mutually do with our friends. But sometimes we think that Jesus should do certain things, or prevent certain things, and when that does not happen, it almost feels like we have to forgive him.

We know intellectually that being a friend of Jesus does not mean our life will be free and easy. It does not mean nothing bad will ever happen. It does not mean we’ll be a better, more good, kind, and sweet person than all others. But often, in spite of that knowledge, we do think that way. “I don’t deserve to have this happen to me” is a common response. Then we remember that bad things do happen to people who are Jesus’ friends, just as they do to those who do not claim that relationship. And we thank God we have Jesus walking beside us every step of the way.

So it’s not that we actually need to forgive Jesus as we forgive our other friends. But there’s a way that it almost looks or feels like forgiving when we accept that Jesus will not protect us from every bad thing -- but rest in the understanding that he will be with us, guide and comfort us, and help us get through whatever comes. There is mutuality in that.

What are your thoughts on the mutuality of our friendship with Jesus?

FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.  ~~from Consolations by David Whyte

Thank God for forgivenesses.

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