Saturday, February 23, 2013

Caught in the Crowd. . . .

The other day I had a surprising little message from a young girl on Facebook wanting my address so she could send me something in the mail. I quickly replied, intrigued by the inquiry. A short two days pass and I receive a letter from this young woman in my small grey mail box. I quickly opened it to find a lovely hand written letter and token of her disclosed apology.

About four summers back, we had been in a show together. Her letter reflected great sorrow over something that had happened between us during that show. Something I was unaware of but that haunted her up until the day she wrote the letter in hopes of my forgiveness. Now, I vaguely remember the occurrence and honestly don't recall my reaction, but as I continued reading her handwriting's I reflected upon all those many times I deeply regretted decisions I had made in my own life that affected someone else.

I take you back almost 16 years to my senior year in high school. I was insecure and craving approval. My emotions were always on my sleeve and one day I couldn't meet the expectation a certain choir teacher had for me, and ran from the class room crying. Hiding in the girls bathroom wiping away every shred of make-up from my eyes, a sweet friend came in to find out what was wrong. I unloaded every frustration I had on him concerning that teacher and about a small number of his "pets". I was not very kind in my descriptions. I told him I would not be back in that day and to please make up something as to why I couldn't return to class. Well, unfortunately he only told the truth about what I had said revealing all my secret opinions to the entire class. Later when I was confronted by the said "pets" about what I had told the friend, I completely denied it. I was scared. That teacher eventually took me aside and told me I needed to apologize to those classmates I offended. I was angry and confused. I didn't even know exactly what had been said to them by my friend, all I knew was that it caused a huge rift in the class and I needed to fix it. So I lied. I lied to each one of them saying I didn't say those things and did not know why my friend said I did. I was on the last apology when I realized this friend over heard our conversation.

It was weeks before graduation and the look upon his face was ingrained in my memory. I had just thrown him under the bus and he knew it. Our eyes had made contact and his soul spoke to mine as the tires ran him over like a slow kitty cat. I kept telling myself, "Just get through graduation and you'll never have to see him again." How true a statement that was.

The look upon his face still haunted me. The guilt I felt about what I had done burned inside my spirit like a unceasing fire, an ember ever white with pain. A couple years after that I was married and had my first daughter and came to a point in my life that I needed to repair what I had done. I tried to search him out but was unable to locate him. All I wanted to do was write him a sincere letter of apology asking for his forgiveness and explaining my weakness in action. But, I could never find a way to contact him. Even years later when Google and Facebook became an easy way of finding someone I could not find him. The letter I so desperately needed to write became a ghost that stalked me wherever I went. Excuses like, I'll see him at a reunion or find him on Facebook eventually, littered my thinking and eventually comforted me into forgetting. Until one day I did find him on Facebook.

It was not the encounter I was hoping for. There was no way of me contacting him or even sending him a friend request in hopes of a response because what I was reading about him was his obituary.

It wasn't very detailed about how he died, just that he was with loved ones and that his suffering was at an end. Obviously leading my mind to believe he had a difficult illness leading to his death. But my heart sank because I knew I would now never get to write that letter. That in this life, I will never be rid of that burning ember of guilt. And until that day of forgiveness in the hereafter, I will dutifully hold tight to my well laid plans and let the burn fill my senses, echoing my days.

I am nauseous as I write this, visualizing the damage I caused. Wishing I had taken a better path in life. But don't we all feel that way, one time or another? Don't we all wish we hadn't done something in our past? I believe we all have regretful moments in our lives. Some moments we can correct, others we simply live with or forget. Bottom line is, our past is littered with poor choices.

I recall watching an LDS General Conference talk being given by President Faust in the year 1997. He spoke of how when he was little he didn't help his grandmother bring in wood for the stove to make dinner and how he regretted it his whole life. (Watch the entire talk or skip to the story at time marker 18:29) Setting aside the fact that President Faust is my favorite apostle of all time, watching him, such a man of God, get choked up about his "sin of omission" always brought forth the knowledge to me that the closer we get to our Heavenly Father the more in tune we are of all the mistakes we have made along the way. At first I thought, geez, if a man of God like President Faust is so ultimately heartbroken over something as small as not helping bring in firewood, I'm doomed! But I soon realized that it doesn't matter how large or small the marks of our past are, they are still ultimately real to us and that makes the damage inside us sometime too heavy to bear.

So going back to the young girl's example of writing me a letter of apology, I applaud her for taking the short time it took to write me and unload that burden from her heart. How wonderful it is that she still had that opportunity to right a wrong, unlike myself. And the funny thing is, I vaguely remember what happened in that show four years ago. If she hadn't sent me the letter, my life would have still been the same. However, her life was altered because of that choice and only she knew it. So holding on to that was only affecting her.

Long story short, I want to encourage everyone to take that moment to right a wrong. Whether it was today, yesterday, or from long ago, fix what you can now because there will be day it won't be as fixable. And for all you know the other party didn't even realize the offense happened and will feel forgiveness isn't even necessary. Or it will repair something that carried an immense amount of pain, lifting a burden held onto for a lifetime. Either way, it will create more room for God to reside within you. And isn't that what we hope to attain? A more Christ-like way of living? The closer we get to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the more we want to flush out the impurities of our lives. And the more intense those impurities can seem. It's all part of the evolution that is when trying to obtain eternal perfection.

For me, I hope to one day be a person that is quick to ask for forgiveness. I know the road is broad and long there, but still, I'd love for my first reaction to be humility over pride. I have so very many dark spots on my record that require forgiveness, and lucky for me (and all of you) Christ is the greatest exemplar on the subject. The words, "Let Go" come to mind at the close of this post. Let go of the past that is holding you captive. You were not created for this world alone. You were created for something better, something amazing that is waiting at the end of your road. Let go of your pride, your sins, your pain. Ask for forgiveness from those you have wronged and release yourself from shadow of the things that have been. Whatever you have done is not that bad.

So I ask you this, Have you asked for forgiveness today?