One of the items on my bucket list reads: “Work on some junk.” Another way of putting this: Forgive ___ (then filling in blank with the names of the not so innocent). And forgive myself.
If I’m being completely honest, as a child of divorced parents and a blended family, there have been many wounds over the years. Throw in a history of having dated way too early and losing people I love in tragic accidents, and you find yourself with a girl who has some heavy “baggage” that somewhere along the way turned into a load of anger and bitterness.
It’s only been over the course of the last year that I’ve truly begun to recognize that I am carrying around this anger. And it turns out talking about forgiveness is a hell of a lot easier than actually doing it. But I don’t want to be bitter, angry or resentful. It’s exhausting. I hate the way it makes me feel towards people I care about. I hate the way it makes them feel. I hate the way it makes me view God. And I hate the way it’s working its way through my body. Did you know a refusal to forgive will actually physically attack your body by working its way through your nervous system, back, and neck? There’s actual research that proves this.
But I don’t need the research to tell me I’m in trouble. I have a knot in my neck that reminds me every day. I woke up one day in August 2011 with this knot, and it’s been setting up shop ever since.
I was in South Carolina for my best friend’s funeral. She died tragically, and I was fuming with emotion: anger, fear, and disappointment towards God and the people I held responsible. Driving down from NJ, I thought I could handle it. I was wrong for thinking this. I spent the next couple of days drinking A LOT, pretending to be someone I wasn’t with people I hadn’t seen since high school. There’s no “user’s manual” for handling the death of your best friend at the age of 24, and I proved that by handling my grief in the worse possible way.
By the time I left South Carolina less than 72 hours after arriving, I was unable to turn my head to the right even a bit. I assumed it was from stress and a lack of sleep, but it only got worse. I started seeing a chiropractor the following week. While the adjustments helped, I have had to return every 4-8 weeks just to keep it bearable.
And, after three years, it’s only recently that I have made the connection that this knot is the physical manifestation of all that is wrong in my life: wasted energy on bitterness and a refusal to forgive.
You see my 52 items in 52 weeks bucket list challenge isn’t about living some wild adventure. It’s actually about intentionally pursuing the life I feel called to live, a life I can be proud of, a life of peace in knowing that I’m living right (and challenging you to do the same). That’s why “work through some junk” is on the list because I want the life of peace.
And with today being Easter and representing what I believe to be two of the most important aspects of my faith—love and grace—I am reminded of this item on my list and my personal need to surrender to the grace that is offered to me when I can’t muster it up on my own. It’s going to be a continual process, I know. But today, today I’m choosing grace. And today, I’m choosing love. I’m choosing to remember that today is a day for forgiveness.