Friday, September 13, 2013

Forgiving God

Well hello again,

It's been a while, I know. I've been feeling inspired to write again, especially thinking about the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur which starts here in Jerusalem in a few hours.

So quick review, Yom Kippur is a holiday where Jews ask forgiveness for the wrongdoings they have committed over the past year. It's a solemn day, but also a beautiful day with even some joy mixed in. So the idea is that through repenting for your past wrongdoings you will be forgiven on Yom Kippur. However this only works for wrongdoings you have committed against God, if you have done something to hurt another person you also have to get forgiveness from them before you can get your clean slate.

There are lots of interesting things to write about forgiveness from other people. But this Yom Kippur I will be thinking about God:

I need to forgive God.

Maybe this sounds a bit arrogant, what does God care if I forgive God or not? I don't know if God cares, maybe, probably not. Who knows?

I've been feeling some anger towards God for a while now, it is not the only emotion I feel towards God, but it can be overwhelming sometimes. This summer aggravated the problem. This summer I did CPE (chaplaincy training) at a hospital. There I had the honor of meeting many patients and provided spiritual care for them and their families. I did have some beautiful and meaningful moments where I really felt like I helped people heal, but not all my experiences were like that.  I had many moments that made me question. I would ask myself: "what kind of a God would allow this to happen?"

I was sent to the room of a dying patient whose family had requested a chaplain. This patient was young and because of some messed up twist of fate he was now dead. Now what do you say to his parents who are witnessing their son die? What do you say to his siblings to have lost their brother? What about the other people that love him? There was nothing to say, and there still is nothing to say. I listened and I stood there as family members cried and wailed and stared in shock and this man, who the day before had been full of life.

As I stood in the room and tried to be a calming and empathetic presence the situation really affected me. It brought up all sorts of emotions and reminded me off a painful loss I experienced a few years ago. And as I stood there I just couldn't come up with a good explanation of "why". Why did he have to die before his time? And why would God create a universe where sh*t like this happens everyday?

So that brings me back to needing to forgive God. Holding on to a wrong that someone has caused you can be destructive because withholding forgiveness can mean that you are still holding onto the wrong someone else did to you. You can be preventing yourself from moving past that event. In my case I need to forgive so that I can have a better relationship with God, and also in the process maybe gain some closure from the many tragic events I witnessed in the hospital.

I've been reading a book called "The American book of Living and Dying" by Richard Groves and Henriette Klauser. It is a book about being a spiritual caregiver to people who are in the process of dying. It has an interesting section about forgiveness. They say, forgiveness (or rather the lack of ability to forgive someone) is the most common cause of spiritual distress among people who are at the end of their lives (and I'm sure also a source of spiritual distress who aren't at the end of their lives). Groves makes a few points about forgiveness that I found helpful...he says to remember that:
"Forgiveness is not denial of our own hurt...
forgiveness in not forgetting real wounds..."

So this Yom Kippur I will fast and ask forgiveness for the wrong doings that I have done this passed year. I have definitely missed the target more than a few times through the course of the year... And I will try to also forgive God, not for God's own sake, but for mine. As Groves points out, this doesn't mean denying I have been hurt in the past, but rather it is about letting go of the grudge looking to the future.  I don't know how it will work, but that is the intention that I want to share with you before Yom Kippur.

So now I ask: have you even been angry/upset with God? If so have you forgiven God? How?

I wish everyone a meaningful day and may you be sealed in the book of life.

gmar chatimah tova

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