Written by Carly Ververs of Wasaga Beach, Ontario
It’s Christmas Break, but the ground is bare, green, snowless. I get two Sundays at home before I have to go back to university. Pastor Roger preaches on the first Sunday, telling us to open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13 — The Love Chapter. I run my fingers over the words as he reads them. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Pastor Roger looks up from his Bible and seems to look directly at me. “This is what love looks like. Are you loving people like this?”
I grip the edges of my Bible and think about ripping that page out, crumpling it up, and throwing it in the garbage. Dad’s face pops into my mind – my grip tightens and the page blurs. I love him. Of course I love him. But have I been loving him well? If this is what love is – patient and kind and keeps no record of wrongs – then I haven’t been loving him at all, really.
By the end of the service, I start thinking that maybe it’s time to forgive him, but by the afternoon, anger and grief have strangled that thought.
“Forgiveness is white – thick snowflakes spinning in circles as they spill from heaven to earth. God takes our crimson sin, our bloodied bodies, and wipes them clean.”
Love never ends. The Greek word used in verse 8 – oudepote piptei – actually translates into “never falls.” Love doesn’t fall to pieces; love doesn’t collapse; love stands when all else falls.
Pastor Dan preaches on the second Sunday – his message is on being resolved to live our lives for the glory of God, a new take on New Year’s resolutions. When talking about what that looks like practically, Pastor Dan gives us four tests, one of which is the Love Test. “Do you love people like Jesus does?” he asks. I stare at the ceiling and wipe my sweaty palms on my dress. “The more our lives display genuine, self-giving love, the more they bring glory to God.”
Toward the end of the service, the ushers hand out white cards with two blank spaces – one for our name and one for our specific New Year’s resolution. I stuff mine in my purse and don’t fill it out for months.
Forgiveness is white – thick snowflakes spinning in circles as they spill from heaven to earth. God takes our crimson sin, our bloodied bodies, and wipes them clean.
He makes them white as snow. But there is still no snow outside, and I don’t know if I can forgive my father, not if forgiving him means letting go of my anger. As Gayle Forman writes in I Was Here, “they don’t know about the mornings when anger is the one thing—the only thing—to get you through the day. If they take that from me, I am wide open: raw and gaping, and then I don’t stand a chance.”
I weep when I read those words for the first time and whisper them to myself when I can’t find my own.
When I get back to university, I cry as I tell my mentor, Hennie, about my Christmas Break – about how Dad was forty minutes late to dinner, about how our Christmas dinner was at Swiss Chalet, about how my sister cried at the table and I rubbed her back, about how I cried after he hugged me goodbye and drove away. “I hate him. I hate him so much,” I say, tasting salty tears in my mouth. “What is wrong with me? What kind of daughter hates her father?”
“The kind who’s been hurt deeply,” Hennie says gently. “Anger is the flip-side of hurt.”
“How am I supposed to forgive him?” I sob the words, “He left me. I mean, I knew he was leaving Mum, but I didn’t realize that leaving Mum meant leaving me.”
Easter is the next holiday we celebrate without Dad. At the Good Friday service, I hear the words of Jesus on the cross – I have heard them countless times before, but something cracks open in me this year. I look at the wooden cross at the back of the stage and picture Jesus hanging from it – the nails driven through his feet and hands, the blood from the crown of thorns matting his hair, streaking his face, running into his eyes. The soldiers casting lots at his feet. The crowd thirsting for his blood, his death. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
My throat closes up, and I can feel my lips, my hands start to tremble, but I stare at the cross. How am I supposed to forgive him, God? He wrecked me. He’s still wrecking me. And you want me to forgive him? I can’t.
I don’t hear the words audibly, but there they are: Let go.
And then I weep, because I know He’s right. I have held onto my anger for long enough – it’s going to bleed me dry if I don’t let go. I press my hands to my mouth and whisper, “I forgive you, Dad.”
Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does.
When my hands steady and my tears slow, I find the white card in my purse and fill it out. “I, Carly, resolve to live my life for the glory of God by committing (God, help me) to love others well – my father, specifically.”
I spoke the words at Easter, but I swallow them more often than not for the next eight months. Forgiveness, I am learning, is not a one-time action. It is something you must choose over and over, every day, even multiple times a day.
It has been almost a year since I sat in church, running my fingers over the words of 1 Corinthians 13 as Pastor Roger read them. It’s my last Sunday at school before Christmas Break, and I am at a church that meets in a movie theatre and listening to a different pastor speak about love and forgiveness. When I walk home, snowflakes swirl in the sky and melt when they touch my hair and my face. Forgiveness is white, and the snow has finally come.