The year was 2001. I’d attended the most beautiful Holy Thursday liturgy I’ve ever experienced, either before or since, at my parish of the Church of Redeemer in Mechanicsville. The liturgy consisted of the entire congregation washing each other’s feet, climaxing in a celebration of the Eucharist reflecting the Last Supper, followed by a silent procession to the church’s dimly lit social hall for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There on the bare floor we knelt quietly. Then Cindy, our music director began to sing Twila Paris’ How Beautiful.
Tears poured out of me. Not just because the song was so moving or the night so emotional, but because for more than a year I had been struggling with letting go of someone I loved but was unable to forgive. I was completely torn up inside but had been going through the motions, moving on with my life – I had gotten a wonderful new job, I was engaged to a nice man. But I felt hog-tied by my own inability to let go and forgive.
The next day was Good Friday. Catholics do something at their Good Friday liturgy called the “veneration of the Cross” in which a cross or crucifix is displayed and the congregation is invited to kiss the cross or touch it and say a quick prayer. Redeemer’s version of veneration took it a step further. Each of us was given a small sticky note and invited to write something down that we were struggling with so that we could “nail” it to the cross during veneration. I wrote down the name of the person I couldn’t forgive and couldn’t let go of.
I desperately wanted to but just didn’t “feel” it inside. I took one step in willingness and nailed it to the cross. God took me the rest of the way. Within months, the feelings of forgiveness came. Within a year I was able to be in the same room with the person, and over the course of the next several years, our relationship has experienced healing. Sometimes the healing has been uncomfortable, like a scab you want to pick at. Sometimes it’s been downright painful. There’s been grieving, and there are scars. But there is hope, too. There is new life, for both of us.
When I was a little kid, veneration of the cross made me uncomfortable. It was weird. Today, I welcome that moment to stand at the foot of the cross, to offer my sin and suffering to a Savior who invites me to walk with Him, not toward death, but through death, to beautiful new life.