When you look at me, who do you see? Do you see the woman God made me to be or the broken sinner bent on thwarting His beautiful plan?
When you look at me, what do you feel? Do you feel gratitude for how He has worked in my life? Or do you feel the pain that I have caused you with my words and actions?
Does it have to be one or the other? Can we see both... looking through the scars and woundedness to a place of innocence and joy?
You see me as I am now. As I present myself to you. As I hurt you or comfort you, show my face or hide my heart. But do you see me as I was meant to be? And will you call me forth to come into my own?
If you struggle with forgiveness, I can offer you a way to find it... an opportunity to uncover that place in your heart that can't fight mercy. It's a little exercise. I can't promise it will work. I can promise you that God will work... even if you can't feel it yet...
We don’t necessarily feel forgiveness - we choose it - and yet our emotional memory is often firmly linked to our choice. If it wasn’t… perhaps we could forgive anyone.
Sometimes the body needs to make the first step to lead the soul in that same way we genuflect toward the tabernacle even when our heart and head are not in it. Our actions, done as an act of faith, help return us to a place of belief. So…
Find a photograph of the one you wish to forgive. Not just any photograph but a very early one... or maybe two or three if you can manage. One of infancy, another of toddlerhood, perhaps another at about 3 or 4 years of age. Baptismal photos are good or of being held in the mother's arms. If you do not have an actual picture, imagine a small child. If you do not think in images, find a picture of an unknown infant and imagine that the child in the photo is the one you are trying to see.
Now close your eyes and pray. Beg the Lord to help you SEE. Beg Him to help you have COMPASSION. And MERCY. Ask the Holy Spirit to flood your mind and soul and vision... that you may only see now through God's eyes. And that you may be able to forgive.
Open your eyes and examine the pictures before you. Imagine holding that infant. Look into the eyes of the child and see the innocence and the beautiful plan that God intended. Think like a mother. Think of all of the hopes and dreams that you would have for such a little person. See the little one smiling up to you and reaching. See baby fall... and the tears... and running to dry them and kiss them away.
God's baby. God's little one. At this moment, that little heart is in your hands. Now, even if you don't feel it, Say out loud:
“You are His beautiful child and I forgive you for His sake.”
I have done this a few times. All times but one it was an accidental (providential) moment. Once, I was sent a childhood photograph by a person who had hurt me. Perhaps she knew me well enough to know the effect it would have. It was her First Holy Communion portrait and her eyes were shining with a beautiful innocent joy. I could SEE her for the first time and all bitterness left my heart. Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation but it is still necessary. The brokenness and division might remain but I cannot see the radiant face of God's little girl and withhold my forgiveness. The image from that photograph has not left me.
I found a picture of my own childhood one day and really looked for the first time. And I wept at what I saw because I saw what I thought was lost. Then I knew that God still sees and loves and forgives His little girl. He always has the face of my innocence before Him.
We ought to do this for each other. We should continually see each other through the Father's eyes and recall each other to our purpose... to the image in which we were made. We should practice seeing what may be hidden and calling out to the little soul in hiding.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta habitually saw our Lord in every person. I am not so good as that. The mother in me sometimes needs to start with a baby picture.
Originally posted in 2011