The Face of Forgiveness

Celestin and I both went to Dallas Theological Seminary bridled by meager means. The witness of God's provision however was most lavish in our symbiotic friendship. Dr. Musekura has taught me deep forgiveness. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 handed him a curriculum that led to a groundswell of mercy in the African Great Lakes Region.

While he wrestles with his cultural affliction, I find myself pressed down by the mystery of forgiveness. I still carry some wounds that bleed from the muck of my own rejection of grace. There are many forgivers that I know, who are generous in releasing others but have not found strength to forgive themselves. And so while this seems strange, I look in the mirror and find a familiar countenance: have I really forgiven myself from my worst perdition?

The worst kind of un-forgiveness is that which is inflicted on oneself. I know of an elderly woman who still suffers from the ghost of quadruple abortion. She confesses of hell's incineration ever so often, but she will not let go. She just could not go past her transgression.

Non-forgiveness insidiously paralyzes all peripheral relationships. The reason behind the impasse seems perfectly virtuous:  we forgive others, we forgive God, but ... we find the forgiveness of ourselves our deep enigma. We live through it, knowing that we are not at peace with our guilt. There is only one cure for this wound: it comes through the vehicle of praise.

I know from theology that my life was crafted to prize God above all. But do I really exalt the person of Christ with utmost regard or is He more like my genie bottle or the cosmic detergent that wipes my stain?  To praise God is to maintain exuberant boast in Him with no fleeting thoughts of competition from some nearby allegiance.

My attitude not to release myself from my own guilt reveals my juvenile faith. When I choose not to forgive myself, I unravel God's true rival in my heart. If I cannot take God's offer of forgiveness, it merely reveals my detour to another source of salvation. Not Christ's of course, but toward one that ironically puts me back in chains.

Celestin has forgiven entire villages as he leads a global arm of reconciliation. We are all called to take forgiveness seriously. Christ knows hell. He took its excruciating whip to spare us from even a second of woe. He who knew no sin became our quagmire. We are healed from the curse by His stripes.

And so I come to forgive myself. In song and in dance, I look at the face of sinful humanity and declare the liberation of God's Wonderful Arrival.

The face of Christ is seen in both our forgiveness toward others and to ourselves. The joy in Celestin's visage asserts this. I strive to imitate his lead.