Thursday, May 30 2024 - 10:52 AM
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Learning to Forgive

Five years ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with some of my classmates. Thrilled, I raised the required money, doubled my efforts in Spanish class, and packed all my shorts and tee-shirts. Then, about a week before the trip began, I learned that my ex-boyfriend was coming along too.

When we started dating, he and I were involved in the theater and in our school’s elite choir. It had felt wonderful to hold hands, to sing duets together, and to come up with fun ways to ask each other out. This lasted about a month before he began to ignore and avoid me. Eventually, he told me that he’d asked God to take away his feelings for me if we weren’t right for each other. Apparently, God had. He assured me that he wasn’t seeing anyone else, but I found out days later he’d asked another girl out. I was devastated.

The Guatemala trip took place only a few weeks after we broke up. Having him around soured the whole trip. I’d go outside to brush my teeth at the spigot and there he’d be, leaning against the wall flirting with this girl. I’d attempt to speak with him in the food line and he’d ignore me. Everyone but me seemed completely enthralled by his charismatic smile and his smooth tenor voice. Between the heat and my jealousy, I was simmering like a pot of oil.

I wanted to hurt him back. To ruin his chances with other girls, I told the story to a few of my friends on the trip in exchange for their sympathetic smiles and offers to braid my hair. I made especially sure that the girl who seemed to have the largest claim to his attention knew all about what he’d done. I became a relationship assassin, my words like daggers in the dark.

Washing Feet

On the final day of the trip, we had a special communion service which included washing each other’s feet. This foot washing was meant to symbolize service and forgiveness to each other. As I watched my classmates get tubs of warm water and towels, I felt a nudge to go wash the feet of my ex-boyfriend.

He should ask my forgiveness first, I protested. He’s the one who broke my heart.

As the room swirled with flies, heat, and murmured conversation, I watched him cross his legs and scratch at the rough soles of his feet, and I realized that I needed to take the first step. My throat tightened as I approached the chair where he was laughing with one of his friends while they waited to have their feet washed. His eyes widened when he saw me.

“Sophia, hi,” he said sitting up straighter in his chair. His smile faltered, then widened to show all his teeth.

“Hi,” I replied. I plastered on a toothy grin of my own and, not sure what else to do, placed his feet in the water.

At first, I could barely bring my fingers to brush his skin, but soon I was gently rubbing his dusty, calloused soles. I knew I needed to ask forgiveness for speaking badly of him and resenting him.

The Will To Forgive

“Please forgive me,” I said after the confession struggled past my lips. My face grew hot and I began to cry.

“Of course I forgive you,” he said as I dried his feet. Then, he grabbed a tub and a towel and hurried to wash the feet of another girl.

Swiping at my tears, I returned to my seat. My eyes clung to him a moment longer, hoping he’d come my way. He never did. I seethed, but at that moment realized that I couldn’t keep hanging on to my resentment and claim that I had forgiven him. Just as Jesus forgave me before I’d even asked, I had to forgive my ex whether he asked for it or not.

I was only hurting myself by holding on to my anger and jealousy. I forgave him that night, but it was not a one-time decision. Forgiveness, like gossip, is a habit formed by little decisions every day. I had to forgive him for many years, but my heart is lighter and freer now that I have washed the hatred and jealousy out of it.

If you liked this, you may also enjoy In Search of Forgiveness | The Power of Forgiveness

Sophia Rich Fullerton writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Sophia Rich Fullerton

Sophia Rich Fullerton

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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