“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land.” Isaiah 1:18-19
And then I flipped open Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm to where the ragged edged paper marked the spot and read a word from God: I really must digress to tell you a bit of good news. Last week, while in prayer, I suddenly discovered–or felt as if I did–that I had really forgiven someone I have been trying to forgive for over thirty years. Trying and praying that I might. When the thing actually happened–sudden as the longed-for cessation of one’s neighbor’s radio–my feeling was, “But it’s so easy. Why didn’t you do it ages ago?” So many things are don easily the moment you can do them at all. It also seemed to me that forgiving (that man’s cruelty) and being forgiven (my resentment) were the very same thing. “Forgive and you shall be forgiven” sounds like a bargain. But perhaps it is something much more. By heavenly standard, that is, for pure intelligence, it is perhaps a tautology–forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing. The important thing is that a discord has been resolved, and it is certainly the great Resolver who has done it. Finally, and perhaps best of all, I believed anew what is taught us in the parable of the Unjust Judge. No evil habit is so ingrained not so long prayed against (so it seemed) in vain, that it cannot, even in dry old age, be whisked away.
Come now let us reason together.
Forgiving and being forgiven are the same thing.
Judge not lest ye be judged. Show mercy to receive mercy. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Even in dry old age, be whisked away.
And then Lewis goes on to explain why, of course, he prays for the dead. Which goes against my stalwart evangelical upbringing, but shaded in last night’s Dia de los Muertos march through downtown Tucson with 100,000 other souls celebrating lives lived and now not on this earth, rings true in this morning’s considerations, in that, the causes which will prevent or exclude the events we pray for are in fact already at work. Indeed they are part of a series, which, I suppose, goes back as far as the creation of the universe. The task of dovetailing the spiritual and physical histories of the world into each other is accomplished in the total act of creation itself. Our prayers, and other free acts, are known to us only as we come to the movement of doing them. But they are eternally in the score of the great symphony. For though we cannot experience our life as an endless present, we are eternal in God’s eyes, that is, in our deepest reality.
As well as his belief in Purgatory. Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with those things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know”–“Even so, sir.”
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. And it really doesn’t matter whether you call it refining fire, or God’s megaphone, or, well, even Potter’s Wheel. We are being made in His image. Remade in His image. Consider it pure joy, brethren.
“But it’s so easy. Why didn’t you do it ages ago?”
Forgive, and it will be forgiven you, heaping and overflowing into your lap. A lot like yesterday’s waterfall of love.