Excerpt from my book in progress, GOD OF LOVE.
You have been violated; there is no denying it. It was not your fault; you were too young to defend yourself. You wandered – curious, guileless – into the grizzly’s cave and woke him. He ate you up. An adult you trusted betrayed you: plundered your body, shredded your confidence, fractured your spirit. You grew up crooked, thickened around your wound, exposed to the bone in the places where once you were whole. It took you decades to realize that what happened to you was not right, would never be right. This knowledge is more than you can bear. You bear it anyway. You are lovely and brave.
But you are mad. Your fury seethes under the surface of your life like an infestation of termites, chewing the foundations to powder. From time to time the demons erupt and you find yourself lashing out at your difficult children or your unhelpful lover and you hate yourself, and hate the one who hurt you — all those years ago — all over again. You try to keep your resentments in a cage in your heart, but they escape. You deal with the damage and lure them back inside. You feed them and they grow. You starve them and they multiply. You are not their jailer after all, but their prisoner.
Then one night you awake and your heart is quiet. The worst thing that has ever happened to you is curled up, harmless, at your feet. You stroke it, open the door, and wave good-bye as it goes. You can clearly picture the people who hurt you most deeply. They are crying. Overcome with empathy, you too begin to weep. You give them a hug, pat their heads. Without any words, you forgive them. Grateful, they disappear, like a genie released from a bottle after the curse is finally lifted. You have never felt such stillness, such a gentle breeze moving through the cells of your body. You fall back to sleep, and rest more comfortably than you can remember since you were a small child, a child who believed the world was a safe and exciting place, managed by grownups who knew what they were doing and loved you unconditionally.
All the sages have taught you to love your enemies and forgive those who persecute you. But what they forgot to tell you is that you are powerless to achieve this on your own. You can cultivate a loving heart through prayer and fearless self-inquiry, through small acts of kindness and more radical acts of social justice. You can turn toward your pain and say yes to your life, but you need the God of Love to meet you halfway. You cannot forgive without grace. And grace is not something you can demand. You can only sweep out the chamber of your soul and be ready to receive it when it comes.
And when it does, there is not a doubt in your mind that you have been blessed. No effort of your own could have yielded this lightness of being.