Forgiveness of deep hurt takes time just like gardening and clearing a bed of weeds or those invasive plants we planted thinking they were beautiful only to find that they had taken over. Those invasive plants are invasive because they are very good at staying put, of sinking tendrils of roots deep in the soul of the soil. Those tendrils stay put sometimes when the remainder of the plant is pulled or dug up. They wait for the right conditions: moisture, warmth, nutrients; then they emerge and the pulling starts again.
When we have been deeply wounded, that wound runs deep. Regardless of how much pondering and figuring out and releasing we do sometimes, the pain remains – there remain tendrils of the pain deep in the soil of our souls. Those tendrils wait, sometimes for years, for the right conditions: remembrances, music, texts, events, pictures – contemplation on a rainy day at a monastery; then they emerge and bring fresh pain and tears and a pleading to be done with it.
Seemingly, those tendrils will always remain. Yet, with persistent, deep work on the soil of our soul, even those tendrils can be removed, freeing us from the vestiges of the original pain, from a certain dread of those things that brought it to mind, from the restraint of relationship and commitment to others that sometimes arises with deep hurt. Persistent, deep work; the kind of work done best in the quiet hours, in the isolation of a monastery, perhaps in the woods where one can release the pain in tears, in final questions, in prayers and pleading.
After all that, there is the offering of forgiveness, naming those very personal ways in which someone has wounded us, ways in which it is embarrassing to have been wounded – only available to those to whom we have bared our souls. Saying out loud to God, and in our hearts and minds to the one who wounded, that we forgive.
Hard work it is, leaving exhaustion – physical, mental, and emotional – in its wake. Exhaustion and an odd sort of empty peace. Where those tendrils had remained is now empty. Yet, not really empty, for if we pause long enough, bravely enough to feel that emptiness, we find God. God’s promise has always been that He will be with us in our struggles, that He will give us strength for the battles we must fight, that He will give us rest.
The peace that fills the place where the tendrils used to be will set its own tendrils, deep within the soil of our soul. That peace that passes all understanding.